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Drug-Induced Homicide Conflicts with Good Samaritan Law

Posted on in Drug Crimes

Drug-Induced Homicide Conflicts with Good Samaritan LawIllinois created its drug-induced homicide law in 1989 as a way to prosecute people who supply drugs that lead to a user’s death. The law was rarely enforced until the recent increase of heroin-related overdoses. Advocates for the law believe that homicide charges against drug dealers may persuade them to give up information on their suppliers, in exchange for a reduced sentence. However, critics point out flaws in how the law works in practice:

  • Many of those punished are not sellers but users who shared the drug with a friend;
  • Proving the charge can be difficult and time consuming;
  • Drug dealers may not know the drug contained additives, such as fentanyl, that often cause the fatal reaction; and
  • Prosecuting sellers does not decrease the demand for the drugs that is driving use.

One of the most harmful effects of the drug-induced homicide law is how it conflicts with Illinois’ good samaritan law, which is meant to encourage life-saving actions in overdose cases.

Good Samaritan Overdose Act

Illinois amended its Controlled Substances Act in 2012 so that it would provide limited immunity to drug users who seek immediately medical assistance for someone who has overdosed. Both the person who has overdosed and the person who called for emergency medical services cannot be charged with Class 4 felony possession of a controlled substance related to the overdose. The substances include:

  • Less than three grams of heroin, cocaine, morphine or LSD;
  • Less than six grams of pentazocine, methaqualone, phencyclidine or ketamine; and
  • Less than 40 grams of peyote, barbituric acid or amphetamines.

Drug-Induced Homicide

The good samaritan law does not provide immunity for the person who calls for help after an overdose if the victim dies and the caller was the person who provided the drug. Drug-induced homicide is a Class X felony that can result in a sentencing of 15 to 30 years in prison and as much as $25,000 in fines. The fact that the offender sought medical aid for the victim may reduce the prison sentence. However, some drug users may choose to not report an overdose so as not to risk a homicide charge. Thus, potential prosecution can deter people from taking action that may save the lives of overdose victims.

Facing Charges 

Drug-induced homicide is too serious of an offense to go uncontested in court. The prosecution must prove that the drug caused the victim’s death and that you provided that drug. A McHenry County criminal defense attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you reduce or defeat the charge. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

Source:

https://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/Drug%20Policy%20Alliance_Fact%20Sheet_Drug-Induced%20Homicide.pdf

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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