More Murder Charges Filed in Opioid Overdose Deaths

At least 19 states have laws allowing for “drug-induced homicide” charges, says the Drug Policy Alliance. Gathering evidence in such cases can be difficult.

Daniel Goodrum, 33, died last year in Memphis of a drug overdose, and two people are charged with killing him by unlawfully distributing the heroin. Amid a growing opioid crisis, the case is one of a number of prosecutions in Tennessee in which murder charges have been brought against people suspected of supplying  deadly drug doses, reports the USA Today Network. There are drug-induced homicide laws also in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, says the Drug Policy Alliance.

Gathering evidence to bring charges after a person dies of an opioid overdose can be a challenge, says Nashville Police Lt. Carlos Lara. Investigations require backtracking because often overdose victims are found alone. The effort can run into hurdles erected by silence by others with drug addictions who fear speaking out and getting into trouble. “They need to know if you sell something and somebody dies, you can be held accountable,” he said. “And you can be held accountable for their death … We’re hoping it’ll make them think twice about dealing these drugs.” He sees the murder charge, as opposed to a drug distribution charge, as another way to combat the opioid crisis.