Fentanyl overdoses are a major problem in the United States. A person might consume a drug that they do not know contains fentanyl. Fentanyl can greatly increase the toxicity of a drug. An accidental overdose can be fatal.
You might help a person obtain drugs that you do not know are laced with fentanyl. You have no intention of killing the person by providing them with these drugs.
But if the person who uses the drugs overdoses and dies, should you be charged with homicide?
Drug-induced homicide in Texas
Last year, the Texas governor announced his intention to make providing drugs laced with fentanyl that result in a fatal overdose a homicide crime. However, currently, Texas does not have a drug-induced homicide law.
In Texas, if you help someone obtain drugs not knowing the drugs were made more lethal than expected due to the unknown presence of fentanyl, and the person who takes the drugs overdoses and dies, you might not be charged with drug-induced homicide.
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act; however, if you knowingly provide someone with drugs, and that person overdoses on the drugs, you might be charged with drug-induced homicide.
A federal drug-induced homicide conviction could result in at least 20 years in prison.
Are drug-induced homicide laws fair?
Some argue that drug-induced homicide laws are inherently unjust. Should you be charged with a federal drug crime such as drug-induced homicide if you reasonably believed your actions were safe, and you had no intent of killing someone?
Furthermore, often, the person providing the drug is not a dealer or drug kingpin who is likely to commit more serious crimes. They are a friend or relative of the overdose victim. They might even be drug users themselves who need help, not punishment.
Furthermore, some argue that drug-induced homicide laws do not lower the number of fatal overdoses, making them ineffective. States should be free to enact laws that help prevent fatal overdoses.
Fatal fentanyl overdoses are a major issue in the United States but prosecuting those who unknowingly help people obtain these drugs may not be the answer to the problem.