Alleged Drug Dealer Takes Plea Deal In Overdose Death
In late August 2022, a South Tampa drug dealer known as “Yoda” struck a last-minute plea deal to avoid trial in the overdose death of a 17 year old girl. The man agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter, which will result in a guaranteed 10-year sentence and a lifetime designation as a “habitual offender” – but the original charge had been one of murder, potentially landing him behind bars for life under a little-used Florida law known as ‘death by distribution.’ This law is somewhat controversial in other states, but has been used more and more in recent years, as Florida’s ‘war on drugs’ intensifies.
Florida Prosecutes Drug Crimes Aggressively
Florida has a long, checkered history with drugs and drug crime, and because of this, state’s attorneys pursue drug offenses aggressively. Florida is notorious for having some of the toughest drug laws in the United States, and their prison population reflects this – only in the past two or three years has the number of inmates serving sentences for drug crimes gone down, now hovering around 30 percent. The possession, distribution, and trafficking of drugs are seen as crimes against society, and Florida state officials take their obligation to prosecute these crimes extremely seriously.
Because of this, Florida added a somewhat unique section to their laws governing murder: a section establishing that any death whose direct cause results from the “unlawful distribution” of certain substances (or mixtures of certain substances) by someone over the age of 18 is murder in the first degree, and can be (though is not always) a capital felony. While this law’s detractors consider it draconian, the difficulty of police in gathering evidence in these cases mean it has not been used often since its passage.
Law Is Not Used Often … But It Is Used
In the case of “Yoda,” the state was planning to charge him with murder under the “death by distribution” statute, because law enforcement believed they had sufficient evidence to make the charge stick: namely, a witness had been found who was willing to testify as to the dealer’s complicity in the death of the 17-year old girl. However, for whatever reason, law enforcement chose to work out a plea in the case. This is unusual in drug cases in Florida, but there are reasons why this may occur; among them, a wish to avoid further pain to the parents of the deceased girl, or the witness suddenly refusing to testify.
If you are charged with causing the death of someone else due to your involvement in procuring drugs for them, understand that the charge is extremely serious, and that you would likely benefit from legal help. While it is true that the ‘death by distribution’ law is not often used, police have been able to obtain evidence in enough cases (including one which was concluded earlier in 2022 – a woman pled guilty to manslaughter after selling a mixture containing fentanyl to a user who later died of an overdose) where it is crucial to be aware that the stakes in this matter are high.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Overdose Attorney
If you have been linked to an overdose death, whether by selling the drugs or in another way, you must be aware of the potential consequences you now face. Contacting a West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can ensure that your rights are protected in court, both on any potential drug trafficking charges and on charges relating to the death itself. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.