It’s August 2014 in Illinois and 30-year old Amy Shemberger is driving with a man to buy heroin for her and her boyfriend. The man she is driving with executed the transaction and then took Amy back home where she would shoot up with her boyfriend, Peter.
That day, both Amy and Peter would use heroin but only Amy would survive. As a result, Illinois prosecutors used expanded drug-induced homicide laws to hold Amy responsible for Peter’s death. She is now serving seven years in prison for sharing her drugs.
Fast forward to today and you now find Florida with a similar set of laws after the passing of HB 477 and SB 150, which allows for prosecutors to charge someone with murder for selling drugs to someone who overdosed.
Whether the drug-induced homicide law is appropriate is up for question, but it is not surprising that action like this was taken. Florida is still in a state of drug crisis, with hundreds of people dying from overdose each year. In fact, the stats show that over 700 people died in the first half of 2016, with a growing number of deaths being the result of fentanyl overdose. Although not as infamous as heroin, fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger.
The truth is that the alarming number of fatal overdoses caused by fentanyl is what inspired government officials in Florida to come up with the new drug-induced homicide law. However, this doesn’t mean that other types of major drugs are excluded. In fact, any death resulting from any controlled substances or variations of synthetic drugs are punishable under the new law. This includes substances controlled under Florida Statute § 893.03(1), such as:
Prior to these new laws going into effect on October 1, 2017, Florida prosecutors were already starting to charge dealers for supplying drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose. In May 2017, Trumaine Muller was indicted for first-degree murder for selling fentanyl-laced heroin to Ariell Jade Brundige, who died after taking a lethal dose. More recently, Hugo Margenat-Castro was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for distribution of fentanyl that resulted in a person’s death.
The number of related charges is going to increase substantially. However, just because you are charged with selling drugs that resulted in an overdose doesn’t mean you’re guilty. Prosecutors will not take these cases lightly, so it’s vital that you have someone fighting on your behalf.
One of the biggest issues with Florida’s new law is that they could end up targeting the wrong people and even make it more dangerous for drug users. In the more than 20 other states that prosecute the distribution of drugs that result in death, there are tales just like Amy Shembereger’s. Partners, friends, and family can get ensnared by these laws for sharing drugs with someone who suffers a fatal overdose.
Drug-induced homicide laws can also undercut Good Samaritan laws that are supposed to protect you from prosecution if you are helping an injured or incapacitated person. If you are using with someone who overdoses, you may be less inclined to seek help out of fear of prosecution.
With these new laws in place, law enforcement will be eager to make arrests after a fatal overdose. When dealing with charges as serious as this, it’s important to take action immediately. People affected by the Florida drug laws need to fight the charges.
If you are faced with any type of criminal charges for providing drugs to someone who overdosed, contact our office. Our team of Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm has over 100 years of combined experience. As former prosecutors on the state and local level, we’re aware of the tactics used by the state to get a conviction. Allow us to use our insight to help free you of the presented charges. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney