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Tampa Woman Pleads Guilty After Client’s Overdose
In mid-May, a Tampa woman pled guilty in federal court to “knowingly and intentionally” distributing drugs – specifically, a mix of heroin and fentanyl – to a man who later died of an overdose. Florida has harsh laws surrounding the possession, sale, and trafficking of drugs, but fentanyl is seen as a particularly grave concern, given its common recreational usage and overdose potential. The woman faces decades in prison, and if you provide drugs to someone who later overdoses and dies, you can face the same without the right legal help to guide you.
Potentially Serious Consequences
The concept of charging drug dealers for the harm that comes to their clients dates back to the 19th century, but the practice became more common in the 1980s. The concept of ‘drug-induced homicide’ was viewed as particularly heinous at the height of the Reaganite “war on drugs,” and roughly three quarters of U.S. states passed laws explicitly criminalizing the act of providing someone with drugs they used to overdose. Florida’s has always been one of the harsher examples, with it being one of the few that classifies this conduct as a capital felony.
The law specifically states that the “unlawful distribution” of certain substances, including both heroin and fentanyl (and its subtypes) can be grounds for murder charges if it is proven that the substance or mixture was the proximate cause of a person’s death. In other words, if a prosecutor can show that the immediate cause of someone’s passing was the drugs provided by another person, and that no other intervening cause played any role, the drugs’ provider can be charged with murder.
State Or Federal Charges?
If you have found yourself in the situation of the Tampa woman, it is crucial that you enlist an experienced attorney who can navigate the system effectively. While alleged drug dealers are not always charged with murder, a charge of selling or distributing drugs can still carry decades in prison if the amount in question is large enough. Fentanyl was once a Schedule II drug, but after it was singled out in Florida criminal law as playing a role in “drug-induced homicide,” it and its derivatives were collectively raised to Schedule I. This means that possession, sale, or trafficking are automatically raised one level higher than they would once have been.
It is important to keep in mind that while many drug distribution charges will come under state law, some will be charged federally. Smaller crimes like an individual sale tend to be charged at the state level, but fentanyl-related crimes are sometimes charged at a federal level simply because of how dangerous non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is perceived to be. Federal sentences are, in general, more harsh than state penalties, though every case is different.
Call A West Palm Beach Drug Crimes Attorney
While the Tampa woman has not been sentenced as of this writing, it is reasonable to think that any prison sentence will be severe. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself charged with crimes related to drug overdoses, particularly fentanyl overdoses, it is imperative that you enlist a West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney to guide you through the legal process. The firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. is ready to try and assist you. Call our offices today to speak to an attorney.