May 31, 2018 |

Proposed New York Law Could Result in Homicide Charges for Opioid Overdose Deaths

The opioid epidemic is ravaging the nation, and New York is not immune to its deadly and devastating effects. 175 Americans die from opioid overdoses every day in the United States. In 2016, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths (including prescription opioids and heroin) was five times higher than in 1999. From 2000 to 2016, more than 600,000 people died from drug overdoses. In 2016, 3,638 New Yorkers died from overdoses – a 50% increase from 2014.

New York legislators are ramping up their efforts to battle the crisis, including a proposed law which would allow for homicide charges against opioid dealers who provide the drugs which lead to fatal overdoses.

“Laree’s Law,” as bill S2761 is called, was passed by the New York State Senate in March 2018. It is named after Albany County teenager Laree Farrell Lincoln, who died of a heroin overdose in 2013. It is awaiting passage by the state Assembly before being forwarded to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for signature.

If it becomes law, it will establish a new criminal offense of “homicide by sale of an opiate controlled substance.” As the writers of the bill note: “Currently, a person who provides an illicit drug that results in the death of a user can typically only be charged with criminal sale of a controlled-substance, allowing those involved in the illicit drug trade to escape prosecution for the deaths caused by their actions.”

That would no longer be true under Laree’s Law. Instead, a person could be charged and convicted of homicide if they unlawfully import into the state, transport within the state from one county or another, or unlawfully sell an opiate-controlled substance and such opiate controlled substance causes the death of another person. The new law would cover both “street” drugs such as heroin as well as prescription opiates such as Fentanyl and other widely abused medications.

The law makes it clear that it is targeting dealers not opioid abusers who may be using the drug at the same time someone they are with overdoses:

This law seeks to punish those individuals involved in the illegal drug trade and is not intended to punish those individuals who are merely co-users. Therefore, a co-user who shares the drugs with the victim still has an incentive to follow the current good Samaritan law and save the other person as he or she will be able to avoid prosecution for homicide by sale of an opiate controlled substance and instead admit to a lower felony because it still is a distribution.

Epstein & Conroy: Brooklyn Drug Crime Defense Attorneys

When charged with an opioid-related crime – especially one involving distribution or intent to sell - it is critical that you have a criminal defense lawyer on your side who understands New York drug laws and knows how to defeat such charges. The experienced Brooklyn drug crime defense lawyers at Epstein & Conroy fight to protect the rights of those accused of drug offenses and will leave no stone unturned to obtain the best possible outcome.

Contact Epstein & Conroy today by calling (718) 852-6763 to arrange for a free consultation to discuss your case.

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