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Philadelphia Homicide Rates Linked to Opioids

February 13, 2018

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

The numbers are in for 2017, and police and criminal experts are confused. Overall crime rates are low, just like they were in 2016, but there were over 300 homicides. This is the first time since 2012 that the city had more than 300 murders, according to The Inquirer. Typically, homicide rates are in line with other violent and non-violent crime, such as battery, assault, theft, and burglary. While many experts have not felt comfortable providing answers to why or how it is possible that the city had a murder spike in 2017 when other crime was low, police commissioner Richard Ross believes that it is due to the ease of gun access and the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Opioid Charges

As hundreds of thousands of Americans have been hooked on opioid painkillers, legally prescribed by their doctors, they have turned to heroin, which can be easier to get and is much cheaper than hydromorphone, oxycodone, and other types of opioid pain medications. Addicted victims of the opioid epidemic who have no control over their addiction have essentially no choice but to frequent open air drug markets. According to Commissioner Ross, this has contributed to the increase in homicides, as increased drug traffic often leads to violence. As such, law enforcement is continuing to crack down on those in possession of opioids or those in possession with intent to sell. According to Pennsylvania’s Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act, opioid possession can result in a maximum fine of $250,000 and 15 years in prison, depending on the amount the defendant was in possession of. If over a certain amount, law enforcement can charge the defendant with possession and intent to sell, so long as the amount they were in possession of would be an unreasonable amount for personal consumption.

Defenses to Opioid Charges

There are certain immunities to penalties under the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Device, and Cosmetic Act. For example, a person cannot be charged with a drug crime if

  • Law enforcement only knew about their commission of an offense because they transported someone who was experiencing an overdose to a hospital, other health facility, law enforcement agency, or campus security; or
  • The person reported a drug overdose, gave his or her name, and remained with the person who was overdosing until law enforcement or medical help arrived.

Similarly, a person who is experiencing a drug overdose cannot be prosecuted under the Controlled Substances, Drugs, Devices, and Cosmetic Act. Other defenses may include unlawful search and seizure, law enforcement planting narcotics on your person or property, you were in legal possession of your prescription pain narcotics, and more.

Call a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you have been arrested for opioid possession or intent to sell, you need the legal guidance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Call the Philadelphia Law Offices of van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim to schedule a free consultation today. Our lawyers work tirelessly to defend the rights of our clients and aggressively pursue the truth.


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