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Murder Charges for Distributing Drugs? It’s Happening in St. Mary’s County

A police officer detains a young man near a vehicle

What’s the difference between a drug charge and a murder or manslaughter charge? In St. Mary’s County, Maryland, not much, apparently.

In recent months, there has been a significant uptick in “death by distribution” charges filed against drug offenders and alleged drug dealers in the area. A “death by distribution” charge seeks to charge someone with murder or manslaughter if they sell or distribute an illegal narcotic that leads to a user’s fatal overdose.

Recent stories about “death by distribution” charges in or around St. Mary’s County include but are not limited to:

  • A man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for distributing fentanyl. A purchaser of the narcotic was found deceased by authorities only a day he spoke to the defendant. (More information can be found in this CBS Baltimore article.)
  • Eight people were indicted for selling opioids linked to fatal overdoses in St. Mary’s County. Charges ranged from second-degree murder and manslaughter to drug distribution. (More information can be found in this NBC 4 Washington article.)
  • A Grand Jury approved the arrest and prosecution of a St. Mary’s County drug distributor for selling narcotics that led to a 25-year old’s fatal overdose. He is charged with murder second degree, murder second degree-depraved heart, and other crimes. He is being held without bond status in a St. Mary’s County detention center. (More information can be found in this Southern Maryland News Net article.)
  • Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has been vocal about encouraging prosecutors to file more “death by distribution” charges in light of the ongoing opioid crisis across the country. With his influence, it is likely there will only be more charges like these in the coming months. (More information can be found in this Baltimore Sun article.)

Are “Death by Distribution” Charges Legal?

There is a real legal concern about “death by distribution” charges, though. Charging someone for murder for supplying a potentially dangerous narcotic is a leap.

People who distribute illegal narcotics do not do so with the intent to cause someone to fatally overdose. People who purchase illegal narcotics know the dangers of using a drug without medical direction or approval. People who purchase illegal narcotics also make the decision the actually use them.

The situation does not add up to the drug distributor being the one who caused the user to fatally overdose. Why would it be correct for them to face murder or manslaughter charges, then? Criminal laws in Maryland and those set by federal rules state clearly that a defendant can only be charged with a crime that accurately describes what they have allegedly done.

However, the inconsistencies in “death by distribution” charges seem to not be enough to prevent the charges from being filed in the first place. Indeed, as some of the aforementioned stories tell, convictions are being granted using nothing but a thin thread between distributing a narcotic and someone else overdosing on it.

Get Criminal Defense Attorneys on Your Side Right Away

If you have been charged with manslaughter or murder in relation to drug distribution charges in Maryland, then there is no time to lose to start working on your defense. It is clear that prosecutors and judges are eager to convict people for “death by distribution” charges, perhaps only to make a point. Do not give them a free pass to convict you.

Fight for your rights and your future by calling on Farmer & Klopfer and our Waldorf and St. Mary’s County death by distribution defense attorneys. With our decades of collective legal experience being put to good use, you can feel confident that your case and your future are in good hands.

Call us at (301) 265-2220 now to schedule a free initial consultation with our criminal defense team.

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