A 47-year-old Virginia man is facing federal conspiracy charges in the death of a young man to whom he had sold drugs and who later died of an overdose.
Our D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand that this kind of case is cropping up more frequently throughout the U.S.
It's worth noting that in D.C., council members recently approved the so-called "Good Samaritan Law," which decriminalizes certain legal offenses for people who are suffering from an overdose or those who call for emergency medical help for someone else who is suffering from one.
Both the Leesburg case and the D.C. law reflect two very different approaches to the failed War on Drugs.
In the Leesburg case, federal prosecutors are alleging that the defendant dealt oxycodone to teenagers in Loudoun County from 2006 through 2012 and that this "conspiracy" ultimately led to the death of a 20-year-old regular customer, who was found dead by his parents in their home three summers ago. The deceased was determined to have suffered from an overdose from injecting oxycodone, which officials say was provided by the defendant. The deceased had been released from a rehabilitation center a day earlier.
The federal conspiracy charge is not a minor one. It carries a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole - the same as murder.
The defendant, who owns a local limousine business, was reported to have for years arrived on high school campuses in one of his limousines and sell to high school students and recent graduates. Customers were reportedly lined up four deep.
The defendant's supply reportedly came from D.C.
However, with this particular instance, the defendant didn't even sell directly to the victim. He sold to two others, who later left five pills for the victim in his parents' mailbox, as a "gift" for returning from rehab.
Four hours later, the victim was dead, a used syringe found at his side.
One of those individuals has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
Other similar cases abound. In Minnesota, prosecutors in Minneapolis vowed last month to begin filing third-degree murder charges against heroin dealers whose customers suffer a fatal overdose. Heroin overdose deaths in Minneapolis are at an all-time high.
In Tampa, Florida, a suspected drug dealer was recently arrested for third-degree murder in the death of a 21-year-old man following his overdose on oxycodone.
And in Orange County, California, a man suspected of supplying heroin to a 21-year-old woman who later died of an overdose has been charged with murder by local authorities there.
Historically, prosecutors had been reluctant to pursue such charges against dealers because there was always the difficulty of proving how the drugs got to the deceased.
As more of these cases are successful, however, more are being filed - both at the local and the federal level.
In D.C., the recent passage of the Good Samaritan Law is intended to encourage those who witness a person overdosing to call for medical or law enforcement assistance.
The allows that:
- Police who observe "small amounts" of illegal paraphernalia or drugs at the scene of an overdose should not consider these to be crimes either for the person experiencing the overdose or for witnesses who sought help;
- A minor should be provided a limited amount of protection from criminal charges for underage possession of alcohol if he or she experiences an overdose or seeks help for a peer;
- An adult 25 or younger is provided limited protection from criminal charges for supplying a minor with drugs or alcohol if he or she seeks medical assistance for a minor in need of it;
- The possession of naloxone, which is a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of an opiate overdose, and its use by laypersons on individuals who are experiencing an overdose, are from now on decriminalized in D.C.