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New Jersey Drug Induced Death Charges Attorney

Lawyer for Serious Drug Charges Defending Against New Jersey’s Strict Liability for Drug Induced Deaths Law

The majority of my criminal defense practice deals with defending cases that in some way involve alcohol or drug abuse. No controlled substance case is treated more seriously in New Jersey than those dealing with drug distribution that leads to another individual’s death. New Jersey’s strict liability for drug induced deaths law is very aggressively pursued by state prosecutors. The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has been particularly active in charging and obtaining convictions in these cases.  However, there are challenges to prosecuting these cases and ways to successfully defend against them.

Drug overdoses are one of the leading cause of death in New Jersey. They account for over 2,000 deaths every year. To curb not only these deaths but also prevent drug use from the grassroots, the state of New Jersey enacted a strict liability on drug-induced deaths law several years ago. This statute (NJSA 2C:35-9) targets anyone providing drugs to drug-dependent individuals where a death occurs. Read on to learn all you need to know about this law in our comprehensive guide below. If you are facing a drug inducted death charge, call my office to speak with an experienced drug charge defense attorney.

What is the New Jersey Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Deaths Law?

The NJSA 2C: 35-9 states that any person who knowingly manufactures and distributes a controlled dangerous substance will be held liable for the death caused by the injection, inhalation, or ingestion of the substance. If someone dies as a result of the use of drugs you either sold or gave to them, you can be prosecuted for their death.

To be convicted with violating New Jersey’s drug induced death statute, the prosecution must first prove the following:

  • The victim in question died as a result of the abuse of lysergic acid, methamphetamine, or any other CDS in Schedule I or Schedule II, such as phencyclidine or fentanyl.
  • The defendant either sold or distributed the CDS in question.
  • The accused knew that their involvement in the manufacture, distribution, or sale of a CDS violates NJSA 2C:35-9.
  • The victim ingested, inhaled, or injected the CDS provided by the accused.
  • The use of the CDS caused the death of the victim.

NJSA 2C:35-9 is a Strict Liability Statute

NJSA 2C:35-9 is a strict liability law. This means that if you are arrested and charged with an induced death, the standard rules of proving intent are not applicable. In other words, anyone arrested for this offense is held responsible for the victim’s death, whether or not they intended to hurt them.

Therefore, even if the victim’s death was as a result of their negligence when using the drug, you can still be held liable. For instance, if the victim intentionally overdosed, you, as the seller or distributor, can be prosecuted for their death. All the state needs to prove in a drug induced death case is that you, as the defendant, gave them the drugs and were it not that the victim would still be alive. Drug inducted death charges are treated much the same way as any homicide.

NJSA 2C:35-9 Violation Doesn’t Merge with Other Offenses

New Jersey’s strict liability on drug-induced deaths statute was enacted to not only curb drug-induced deaths but also as a measure to reduce the rising rates of drug abuse in the state.  The state aims to dismantle drug trafficking cartels and, consequently, get lethal drugs off its streets as soon as possible.

Because of this, a drug-induced death offense is separate from other charges. This means you can be separately charged, convicted, and sentenced for both drug inducted death and drug distribution charges from the same case. Two separate sentences can be imposed for such charges. For this reason and many others, it’s even more crucial you retain a proficient and reputable attorney to help you with a NJSA 2C:35-9 case.

The Penalties and Sentencing in a Drug-Induced Death Case

In New Jersey, a drug-induced death is categorized as a first-degree felony. First-degree crimes in New Jersey carry a 10 to 20-year jail sentence, along with a fine of up to $200,000. Also note that if found guilty, the defendant will be required to pay a mandatory $3000 penalty fee and a $50 laboratory fee. There is also a mandatory suspension of driving privileges for six months up to two years.

Possible Defenses

The stakes against a defendant in a drug-induced death case are high. However, it’s possible to avoid conviction in these cases. Like all criminal charges, the state must prove each element of the statute beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high legal standard. The prosecution must first prove the defendant offered the drugs to the victim. This can be tricky since drug users usually purchase drugs from different sellers.

Note, even if there’s evidence proving the defendant was to supply drugs to the victim on the day he/she overdosed, the prosecution still has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the proposed drug deal was completed. If there’s no proof of this, they will be unable to secure a conviction.

Get Help Now

If you’ve recently been arrested and charged with a first-degree felony, it is incredibly crucial you find the best lawyer for your situation immediately. It is critical to investigate the facts surrounding the case right away to establish that the victim obtained the controlled substance from another person. Securing alibi witnesses and other exculpatory information right away is also crucial before memories fade evidence disappears.

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