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Drug Dealer or Murderer? The Charge of Drug Delivery Resulting in Death

November 10, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Many people think that if a person is caught selling drugs in Pennsylvania, the harshest charge they will face is possession with intent to deliver. Although this charge carries very harsh penalties for those convicted, there is a much more serious charge people may face, depending on the type of drug they sold or delivered. This is the charge of drug delivery resulting in death, and Pennsylvania uses this charge more than any other state in the country. It is critical that anyone facing these charges understands what they are up against, and that they speak to a Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer that can help them beat the charges.

Defining Drug Delivery Resulting in Death

According to Pennsylvania law, the offense of drug delivery resulting in death includes two important elements. These are as follows:

  • An individual must intentionally dispense, deliver, prescribe, administer, sell, give, or distribute a controlled substance that violates Pennsylvania law, and
  • Another person must use the substance and die as a result.

In some cases, medical professionals are charged with this offense. However, it is much more common for individuals that are not in the medical field, but that are suspected of delivering drugs, such as opiates, that lead to an overdose and result in the death of another person to face these charges.

Individuals convicted of drug delivery resulting in death face first-degree felony charges, similar to those of third-degree murder. Penalties include a maximum of 40 years in jail, a maximum $25,000 fine, seizure of property by the state, and restitution to the victim’s family.

The Burden of Proof for the Prosecution

The prosecution has to establish two elements of the case in order to secure a conviction for drug delivery resulting in death. These include:

  • The defendant supplied the drug did so intentionally, and
  • The defendant acted knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly in causing the death of the victim

The burden of proof sounds very high, as the prosecution must essentially prove the illegal substance caused the death of another person. However, the appellate courts in Pennsylvania have determined that when one person sells heroin to another individual, that is enough to prove the recklessness element of the case.

Defending a Drug Delivery Resulting in Death Charge

Being charged with drug delivery resulting in death is very scary, but there are defenses available. For those accused, it is always best to work with a criminal defense lawyer in Pennsylvania. A defense lawyer will work with their extensive network of medical experts, forensic experts, forensic pathologists, and more, which are almost always required in these types of cases. Individuals that do not have experience in the legal field often do not know how to reach out to these professionals, but a defense lawyer does and will use them to help with the case.

Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

If you or someone you love has been accused of drug delivery resulting in death, there is a lot at stake. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers can help. We know the defenses available in these cases and will use them to refute the arguments of the prosecution and give you the best chance of success. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help.



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