Drug Induced Homicide In

New Hampshire

In an effort to combat the rising tide of fatalities, many states have implemented Drug Induced Homicide laws to hold drug dealers accountable for the deaths.

Fortunately, New Hampshire is one of those states. The following is an excerpt from New Hampshire State Law:

N.H. Rev. Stat. § 318-B:26. Penalties.

I. Any person who manufactures, sells, prescribes, administers, or transports or possesses with intent to sell, dispense, or compound any controlled drug, controlled drug analog or any preparation containing a controlled drug, except as authorized in this chapter; or manufactures, sells, or transports or possesses with intent to sell, dispense, compound, package or repackage (1) any substance which he represents to be a controlled drug, or controlled drug analog, or (2) any preparation containing a substance which he represents to be a controlled drug, or controlled drug analog, shall be sentenced as follows, except as otherwise provided in this section:

(a) In the case of a violation involving any of the following, a person shall be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 30 years, a fine of not more than $500,000, or both. If any person commits such a violation after one or more prior offenses as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person may be sentenced to a maximum term of life imprisonment, a fine of not more than $500,000, or both:

(1) Five ounces or more of a mixture or substance containing any of the following, including any adulterants or dilutants:

(A) Coca leaves, except coca leaves and extracts of coca leaves from which cocaine, ecgonine, and derivatives of ecgonine or their salts have been removed; or

(B) Cocaine other than crack cocaine, its salts, optical and geometric isomers, and salts of isomers; or

(C) Ecgonine, its derivatives, their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers.

(2) Lysergic acid diethylamide, or its analog, in a quantity of 100 milligrams or more including any adulterants or dilutants, or phencyclidine (PCP), or its analog, in a quantity of 10 grams or more including any adulterants or dilutants.

(3) Heroin or its analog, crack cocaine, or a fentanyl class drug in a quantity of 5 grams or more, including any adulterants or dilutants.

(4) Methamphetamine or its analog, in a quantity of 5 ounces or more, including adulterants or dilutants.

(b) In the case of a violation involving any of the following, a person may be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years, a fine of not more than $300,000, or both. If any person commits such a violation after one or more prior offenses as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 40 years, a fine of not more than $500,000, or both:

(1) A substance or mixture referred to in subparagraph I(a)(1) of this section, other than crack cocaine, in a quantity of 1/2 ounce or more, including any adulterants or dilutants;

(2) A substance classified in schedule I or II other than those specifically covered in this section, or the analog of any such substance, in a quantity of one ounce or more including any adulterants or dilutants;

(3) Lysergic acid diethylamide, or its analog, in a quantity of less than 100 milligrams including any adulterants or dilutants, or where the amount is undetermined, or phencyclidine (PCP) or its analog, in a quantity of less than 10 grams, including any adulterants or dilutants, or where the amount is undetermined;

(4) Heroin or its analog, crack cocaine, or a fentanyl class drug in a quantity of one gram or more, including any adulterants or dilutants;

(5) Methamphetamine or its analog, in a quantity of one ounce or more including any adulterants or dilutants;

(6) Marijuana in a quantity of 5 pounds or more including any adulterants or dilutants, or hashish in a quantity of one pound or more including any adulterants and dilutants;

(7) Flunitrazepam in a quantity of 500 milligrams or more.

(c) In the case of a violation involving any of the following, a person may be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 7 years, a fine of not more than $100,000, or both. If any person commits such a violation after one or more prior offenses as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person may be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 15 years, a fine of not more than $200,000, or both:

(1) A substance or mixture referred to in subparagraph I(a)(1) of this section, other than crack cocaine, in a quantity less than 1/2 ounce including any adulterants or dilutants;

(2) A substance or mixture classified as a narcotic drug in schedule I or II other than those specifically covered in this section, or the analog of any such substance, in a quantity of less than one ounce including any adulterants or dilutants;

(3) Methamphetamine, or its analog in a quantity of less than one ounce including any adulterants or dilutants;

(4) Heroin or its analog, crack cocaine, or a fentanyl class drug in a quantity of less than one gram, including any adulterants or dilutants;

(5) Marijuana in a quantity of one ounce or more including any adulterants or dilutants, or hashish in a quantity of 5 grams or more including any adulterants or dilutants;

(6) Flunitrazepam in a quantity of less than 500 milligrams;

(7) Any other controlled drug or its analog, other than those specifically covered in this section, classified in schedules I, II, III or IV.

(d) In the case of a violation involving any of the following, a person may be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 3 years, a fine of not more than $25,000, or both. If any person commits such a violation after one or more prior offenses as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person may be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 6 years, a fine of not more than $50,000, or both:

(1) Marijuana in a quantity of less than one ounce including any adulterants or dilutants, or hashish in a quantity of less than 5 grams including any adulterants or dilutants;

(2) Any schedule V substance or its analog.

II. Any person who knowingly or purposely obtains, purchases, transports, or possesses actually or constructively, or has under his or her control, any controlled drug or controlled drug analog, or any preparation containing a controlled drug or controlled drug analog, except as authorized in this chapter, shall be sentenced as follows, except as otherwise provided in this section:

(a) In the case of a controlled drug or its analog, classified in schedules I, II, III, or IV, other than those specifically covered in this section, the person shall be guilty of a class B felony, except that notwithstanding the provisions of RSA 651:2, IV(a), a fine of not more than $25,000 may be imposed. If any person commits such a violation after one or more prior offenses as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person shall be guilty of a class A felony, except that notwithstanding the provisions of RSA 651:2, IV(a), a fine of up to $50,000 may be imposed.

(b) In the case of a controlled drug or its analog classified in schedule V, the person shall be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 3 years, a fine of not more than $15,000, or both. If a person commits any such violation after one or more prior offenses as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person shall be guilty of a class B felony, except that notwithstanding the provisions of RSA 651:2, IV(a), a fine of not more than $25,000 may be imposed.

(c) In the case of more than 3/4 ounce of marijuana or more than 5 grams of hashish, including any adulterants or dilutants, the person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. In the case of marijuana-infused products possessed by persons under the age of 21 or marijuana-infused products as defined in RSA 318 B:2-e, other than a personal-use amount of a regulated marijuana-infused product as defined in RSA 318 B:2-c, I(b), that are possessed by a person 21 years of age or older, the person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

(d) In the case of 3/4 ounce or less of marijuana or 5 grams or less of hashish, including any adulterants or dilutants, the person shall be guilty of a violation pursuant to RSA 318-B:2-c. In the case of a person 21 years of age or older who possesses a personal-use amount of a regulated marijuana-infused product as defined in RSA 318-B:2-c, I(b), the person shall be guilty of a violation pursuant to RSA 318-B:2-c.

(e) In the case of a residual amount of a controlled substance, as defined in RSA 318-B:1, XXIX-a, a person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if the person is not part of a service syringe program under RSA 318-B:43.

III. A person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor who:

(a) Except as provided in RSA 318-B:2-c, controls any premises or vehicle where he or she knows a controlled drug or its analog is illegally kept or deposited;

(b) Aids, assists or abets a person in his presence in the perpetration of a crime punishable under paragraph II of this section, knowing that such person is illegally in possession of a controlled drug or its analog.

(c) Manufactures with the intent to deliver, delivers or possesses with the intent to deliver any drug paraphernalia when such paraphernalia is knowingly manufactured, delivered or possessed for one or more of the uses set forth in RSA 318-B:2, II.

(d) Places an advertisement in violation of RSA 318-B:2, III.

III-a. [Repealed.]

IV. Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense defined in this chapter is punishable by imprisonment or a fine or both, which may not exceed the maximum punishment prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.

V. Any person who violates this chapter by manufacturing, selling, prescribing, administering, dispensing,  or possessing with intent to sell, dispense, or compound any controlled drug or its analog, in or on or within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private elementary, secondary, or secondary vocational-technical school, may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment or fine, or both, up to twice that otherwise authorized by this section. Except to the extent a greater minimum sentence is otherwise provided by this chapter, a sentence imposed under this paragraph shall include a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of not less than one year. Neither the whole nor any part of the mandatory minimum sentence imposed under this paragraph shall be suspended or reduced.

VI. Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, a person convicted under RSA 318-B:2, XII as a drug enterprise leader shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of not less than 25 years and may be sentenced to a maximum term of not more than life imprisonment. The court may also impose a fine not to exceed $500,000 or 5 times the street value of the controlled drug or controlled drug analog involved, whichever is greater. Upon conviction, the court shall impose the mandatory sentence unless the defendant has pleaded guilty pursuant to a negotiated agreement or, in cases resulting in trial, the defendant and the state have entered into a post-conviction agreement which provides for a lesser sentence. The negotiated plea or post-conviction agreement may provide for a specified term of imprisonment within the range of ordinary or extended sentences authorized by law, a specified fine, or other disposition. In that event, the court at sentencing shall not impose a lesser term of imprisonment or fine than that expressly provided for under the terms of the plea or post-conviction agreement.

VII. Any person who violates RSA 318-B:2, XI may be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years, a fine of not more than $300,000, or both. If any person commits such a violation after one or more prior offenses, as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 40 years, a fine of not more than $500,000, or both.

VIII. Any person who knowingly or purposely obtains or purchases (1) any substance which he represents to be a controlled drug or controlled drug analog, or (2) any preparation containing a substance which he represents to be a controlled drug or controlled drug analog, except as authorized in this chapter, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. If any person commits such a violation after one or more prior offenses as defined in RSA 318-B:27, such person shall be guilty of a class B felony.

IX. Any person who manufactures, sells, or dispenses methamphetamine, lysergic acid, diethylamide phencyclidine (PCP) or any other controlled drug classified in schedules I or II, or any controlled drug analog thereof, in violation of RSA 318-B:2, I or I-a, is strictly liable for a death which results from the injection, inhalation or ingestion of that substance, and may be sentenced to imprisonment for life or for such term as the court may order. For purposes of this section, the person’s act of manufacturing, dispensing, or selling a substance is the cause of a death when:

(a) The injection, inhalation or ingestion of the substance is an antecedent but for which the death would not have occurred; and

(b) The death was not:

(1) Too remote in its occurrence as to have just bearing on the person’s liability; or

(2) Too dependent upon conduct of another person which was unrelated to the injection, inhalation or ingestion of the substance or its effect, as to have a just bearing on the person’s liability. It shall not be a defense to a prosecution under this section that the decedent contributed to his own death by his purposeful, knowing, reckless or negligent injection, inhalation or ingestion of the substance or by his consenting to the administration of the substance by another. Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude or limit any prosecution for homicide. A conviction arising under this section shall not merge with a conviction of one as a drug enterprise leader or for any other offense defined in this chapter.

IX-a. A qualifying patient or designated caregiver as defined in RSA 126-X:1 who sells cannabis to a person who is not a qualifying patient or a designated caregiver shall be guilty of a class B felony and shall be sentenced to a maximum term of imprisonment of not more than 7 years, a fine of not more than $300,000, or both.

X. Any penalty imposed for violation of this chapter shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, any civil or administrative penalty or sanction authorized by law.

XI. Any person who violates any provision of this chapter for which a penalty is not provided by paragraphs I through IX shall be guilty of a class B felony if a natural person, or guilty of a felony if any other person.

XII. The penalty categories set forth in this section based upon the weight of the drug involved are material elements of the offense; however, the culpability requirement shall not apply to that element of the offense.

XIII. Any person who violates any provision of this chapter shall be fined a minimum of $350 for a first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense, except that any person who violates the provisions of RSA 318-B:26, II(c) or RSA 318-B:26, II(d) shall be fined $350. This paragraph shall not apply to violations of RSA 318-B:2-c.

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Drug Induced Homicide, Inc.® is registered as a 501(c) nonprofit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Drug Induced Homicide, Inc.® 's tax identification number is 85-0772680.

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Our mission is to:

  • Introduce Drug Induced Homicide legislation to Sates that do not currently have this statute.
  • Raise awareness about the effectiveness of criminal investigation and prosecution in reducing deaths related to suspected drug toxicity.
  • Support families of victims who were unlawfully delivered a controlled substance resulting in their death.

Drug Induced Homicide, Inc.® is a registered 501(c) nonprofit organization.

Understanding Drug Induced Homicide Law

From the Attorney General’s point of view.

Read the Brief

For many years, most prosecutors charged only those drug-related deaths involving rival drug gang fights as being homicides. But the focus has now broadened to also examine overdose deaths as prosecutable homicides against those who sold and distributed the drugs causing the overdose. It is important to emphasize that not every death because of a drug overdose is a criminal matter. Some are suicides, and some are simply accidents. But some deaths, legally and ethically, may rise to the level of criminal homicide. These homicides may not be easily discovered, investigated, prosecuted or proven, but they still deserve attention. For that to happen, a paradigm shift in thinking by law enforcement officers and prosecutors is required, away from attitudes focusing on accident to thinking and treating overdoses as homicides.

In order to make that shift, it is important to understand and appreciate the variety of approaches available within existing statutory schemes and case law. While a handful of states have no statutory or case law basis for treating overdose deaths as homicides,[8] the majority already had or have adopted a wide variety of legal theories useful in addressing these cases. Two basic options highlight the differing approaches: use of the existing statutory structure, often referred to as the felony murder rule, and creation of a specific offense of death resulting from the distribution of controlled substances.

What might be characterized as the traditional approach to the matter may be found in those states that have included overdose deaths within their murder statute. Arizona and Oklahoma, among others, list drug offenses as crimes which, when a death occurs during the commission of that offense, is treated as murder.[9] A significant number of states enumerate drug offenses within their murder statutes and, while the laws have been on the books for a considerable time, they are only now being considered for use in overdose cases.

A felony murder statute allows the prosecutor to charge an offense which requires no specific mental state other than that required for the enumerated offense;[10] the law may specifically state that no proof of intent to cause the death is required.[11] In general, proof of the underlying offense and the cause of death will be sufficient to obtain a conviction under this approach. Additional elements, such as proof that the underlying felony must be inherently dangerous to human life,[12] or proof of recklessness in both causation and appreciation or awareness of the risk,[13] may be required in some states.

Where these various felony murder states differ is in their classifications for punishment for the offense. The possibilities range from first degree or capital murder,[14] second degree murder,[15] manslaughter,[16] involuntary manslaughter,[17] and even negligent homicide.[18] They may also limit the application of the statute. For example, Florida’s statute applies only to distribution by an adult,[19] while Colorado’s statute applies only to distribution to a minor on school grounds.[20]

Those states punishing drug dealing resulting in death as a specific offense have adopted a variety of approaches as well. These “drug-induced homicide” statutes are crafted as stand-alone felonies rather than being included in existing murder or other statutes. Again, as with the felony murder alternatives, the treatment of punishment and application may vary. New Hampshire and New Jersey both define the offense as being one of strict liability.[21] Both statutes, mirroring one another, apply to methamphetamine, lysergic acid, diethylamide phencyclidine (PCP), or any other Schedule I and II controlled substances and provides that any person who manufactures, sells, or dispenses the substances in violation of law is strictly liable for a death resulting from their use.

The varieties of these statutes are numerous and diverse. Pennsylvania’s statute applies to any controlled substance and provides that the delivery must be done intentionally.[22] Delaware has imposed a minimum weight threshold to its statute, requiring, for example, that there be delivery of at least one gram or more of heroin.[23] Michigan’s law covers Schedule I and II controlled substances, but specifically excludes marijuana.[24] A recent amendment to the Illinois law allows for prosecution for a death within the state caused by a drug that was delivered outside the state in violation of the law of that other jurisdiction.[25]

For those states, such as California, which have no felony murder or drug-induced homicide statute that would apply to overdose situations, prosecutors are left to cobble together a criminal liability theory using a second degree murder or manslaughter charge with a negligence or reckless element. California might make use of its involuntary manslaughter statute.[26] New York might make use of its statutes regarding criminally negligent homicide (criminal negligence standard) or manslaughter in the second degree (reckless standard).[27] A bill to amend Ohio’s involuntary manslaughter statute to include causing or contributing to the death of a person as a result of the sale, delivery, or administration of a controlled substance and making it a strict liability offense was introduced but has languished since 2016.[28]

Regardless of the criminal statute scheme, one element is the lynchpin to the crime: causation. Whether a felony murder, strict liability, or reckless or negligent theory, causation raises perhaps the most difficult issues in proving these cases.

Overdose cases have a number of matters that may cause the prosecutor some concern, from lack of sympathy for the victim to proving who provided the drugs. On top of these, many of the victims in overdose death cases are polysubstance abusers, injecting or ingesting a wide variety of both legal and illegal substances. Further, because of their drug addictions, their overall general health may be compromised, making them susceptible to diseases and conditions which might impact the situation leading to their deaths. It becomes imperative for the prosecutor to understand what is needed to prove regarding causation.

States have enumerated a variety of different legal standards for causation of death; “direct result,” “caused by,” “proximately caused,” and “results from” being the more common. Also included are “recklessly causes” and “more likely than not.” Each standard has its own legal ramification. It is important to note, however, that the analysis of proximate causation in tort law is quite different from that analysis applied in criminal law. Mere negligence may suffice in a personal injury case, but not in a criminal matter where gross or wanton disregard is needed to show criminal negligence.

In those states making use of a result-oriented scheme, states may follow the reasoning set forth in the leading federal case on the issue, Burrage v United States.[29] Burrage was prosecuted under the provisions of 21 U. S. C. § 841(b) (1) (C) which provides for punishment in the event that “death or serious bodily injury result[ed] from the use of [the drug].” In Burrage, long-time drug user Banka died following an extended binge that included using heroin purchased from Burrage. At trial, medical experts testified that Bank might have died even if he had not taken the heroin Burrage provided. Denying a motion for judgment of acquittal, the trial court instructed the jury that the government only had to prove that heroin was a contributing cause of death. The U.S. Supreme Court looked at both actual and proximate cause, holding that, at least where the use of the drug distributed by Burrage was not an independently sufficient cause of the victim’s death, he could not be held liable unless such use is a “but-for” cause of death. Thus, under Burrage, a particular drug causing a contributory effect to death is not sufficient to create criminal liability.

This narrow approach to causation makes it especially important that the medical examiner and toxicologist both be consulted prior to initiating a prosecution. Beyond the issue of whether the death is an accident versus a homicide, the medical examiner and toxicologist must understand the legal requirements and what ultimately may be asked of them during testimony in homicide prosecutions such as these. The prosecutor must also understand the distinctions and potential nuances in the medical examiner’s stated cause of death.

Even under a felony murder scheme, often seen as a strict liability situation, causation may still be required. For example, the sole act of selling heroin to a purchaser, who, voluntarily and out of the presence and without the assistance of the seller, subsequently injected heroin and died as a result, may be insufficient to invoke the felony murder rule. In order to convict of felony-murder, it may be necessary in some jurisdictions to show that the conduct causing the death was done while in the commission of a felony or in furtherance of the design to commit the felony.[30] Thus, if the commission of the felony is completed upon the sale, a felony murder charge cannot stand. Nor may the result causation element be ignored even in the strict liability situations. These statutes may still contain a result oriented causation requirement.[31]

Thus, even when not specifically enumerated in the statute, causation remains an essential element. For example, where manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance is the underlying felony relied upon in a felony murder prosecution, the state might still be required to prove (1) the commission or attempt to commit the felony; (2) the defendant’s participation in such felony; and (3) the death of the victim as a result of injuries received during the course of the commission or attempt.[32] Furthermore, the cause of death might not necessarily be the sole cause of death.[33] And where the medical examiner has found that the ingestion of the drug was not the sole cause of death, the prosecutor will face an additional legal hurdle. Thus, in order to make the shift to treating overdose deaths as homicides, it is imperative that investigators and prosecutors find not only the correct legal scheme under which to proceed, but also be mindful of the causation element embedded in a statute or required by a jurisdiction’s case law.

Prosecuting overdose deaths as homicides will not be the silver bullet to the public health crisis this nation faces. However, it is one tool in the law enforcement arsenal which, if used appropriately, can assist locally in focusing on the drug dealers who take advantage of those who have become addicted to opioids.

 

Sources and Works Cited

[1] Ctrs. for Disease Control, Provisional Counts of Drug Overdose Deaths

[2] Illicit Drug Use, Illicit Drug Use Disorders, and Drug Overdose Deaths in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas

[3] The First Count of Fentanyl Deaths in 2016: Up 540% in Three Years

[4] The Heroin Epidemic: Then and Now

[5] Heroin Use Rises Significantly Among Young Whites

[6] Why Fentanyl Is So Much More Deadly than Heroin

[7] Counterfeit Prescription Pills Containing Fentanyl: A Global Threat, DEA Intell. Brief

[8] The offense of trafficking a controlled substance by possession with intent to distribute cannot be the predicate felony to a felony murder conviction because it is not an inherently dangerous crime. State v. Bankert, 117 N.M. 614, 975 P.2d 370 (1994).

[9] Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-1105 and 21 Okla. Stat. Ann. § 21-701/7.

[10] Alaska Stat. § 11.41.120.

[11] Minn. Stat. § 609.195.

[12] Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-1.

[13] Iowa Code § 707.5.

[14] See, e.g., Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-1105, Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-1.

[15] La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:30.1, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 565.021.

[16] Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 265, § 13.

[17] Nev. Rev. Stat. § 200.070.

[18] Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-104.

[19] Fla. Stat. § 782.04(1(a)3.

[20] Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-3-102(e).

[21] N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann § 318-B:26; N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:35-9.

[22] Tit. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2506.

[23] Del. Code Ann .tit 16 § 4752B.

[24] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.317a.

[25] 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/9-3.3.

[26] Cal. Penal Code § 192.

[27] N.Y. Penal Law §§ 125.10, 125.15.

[28] H.B. 141, 132nd General Assembly.

[29] 134 S. Ct. 881 (2014).

[30] See State v. Mauldin, 215 Kan. 956, 529 P.2d 124 (1974)

[31] N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2C:35-9

[32] See., e.g., State v. Williams, 172 W.Va. 295, 305 S.E.2d 251 (1983)

[33] See State v. Jenkins, 229 W.Va. 415, 729 S.E.2d 250 (2012)