Aug 192013
Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

This past week the Associated Press reported that there is a recent movement to hold drug dealers responsible for their “clients” overdoses.  Prosecutors from various states are aggressively using state laws to prosecute drug dealers for causing overdose deaths. These statutes have been around for years, yet are rarely used, but the recent skyrocketing numbers of heroin deaths have caused prosecutors to go after dealer in hopes that they can put a dent in the supply of heroin. 

Heroin has become the drug of choice due to its lower cost and availability. It has affected the popularity of prescription pain killers, such as OxyContin, since they are expensive and hard to obtain. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heroin usage has increased by 66% between 2007 and 2011 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heroin overdose deaths have increased 55% between 2000 and 2010.

In New Jersey, criminal court prosecutors are using the seldom used drug death statute that carries a 20 year maximum sentence and  makes it a first degree crime if you are a dealer and responsible for a user’s death. Interestingly enough prosecutors are using a drug dealer’s business tool, the cell phone, as evidence against them. Cell phone records and texts can be used to show that the user contacted the dealer for drugs and the dealer responded to the call or text.

Many states are also holding drug dealers liable in civil court they are found to have distributed an illegal drug that harms an individual. The distribution need only be in the same geographic area and during the same time period as the person who took the drugs. So the injured user could actually go after the drug dealer for money damages in civil court. With this crackdown on overdose deaths, you may also see families of the deceased going after dealers in civil court.  

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website ( at

  •  August 19, 2013
  •  Posted by at 11:30 am
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