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Will You Be Charged for a Friend's Drug Overdose?

When someone overdoses on drugs, the most important thing a friend can do is call 9-1-1. Unfortunately, because of the drug laws in many jurisdictions across the country, the friendships of hard drug-users are put through life-or-death tests when one friend overdoses.

Because of the potential for being arrested for using or possessing drugs, fellow drug users often fear calling 9-1-1 to report overdoses. This, in turn, results in needless and preventable overdose deaths. However, a majority of the states give individuals, even drug users, limited immunity for calling to report a drug overdose. Even if your state doesn't provide immunity, it is not guaranteed that you will face charges if you do the right thing and call 9-1-1.

In a majority of states, you will not be arrested if you report a drug overdose while in possession or high on drugs yourself. However, in most, if not all, jurisdictions, a person that supplies the drugs to a person that overdoses is likely to face more than just drug charges. As one Portland man discovered last year, he was sentenced to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter after a friend overdosed on heroin that he provided.

Drug Dealer Friend Liability for Overdose

While friends that do drugs together may not consider the friend who sourced the drugs as a drug dealer, under the laws of nearly every state, they are exactly that. As such, the friend that provides the drugs to a person that overdoses can be charged criminally, not just for selling or providing illegal drugs, but also for the injury or death that results from the overdose.

How the charges are brought will largely depend on the specific facts of the case, and the law and customs of the jurisdiction. Generally, the most likely charges for providing the drugs related to an overdose death are second degree murder, or manslaughter, as it is unlikely that a drug dealer wants to kill their customers (that would just be bad for business).

Friends Don't Let Friends Shoot Heroin ... Alone

In more progressive jurisdictions, like Seattle, the police have recently issued a warning to heroin users: Don't shoot heroin alone. This warning is a result of multiple recent overdoses that has the city concerned about a bad batch of drugs that could have more widespread effects. The police and health officials recommend that heroin users make sure that someone that is not using is present when others are using heroin, and that the heroin overdose reversal drugs, Narcan or Naloxone, be on hand.

If you fear being charged with a drug crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away.

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