Can Drug Dealers Face Manslaughter Charges In Overdose Deaths?

September 5, 2018

In the case of an overdose death, who do the courts hold responsible? Public pressure is creating a demand for a stronger legal response. As the death toll from the current “opioid epidemic” continues to climb, the police are charging drug dealers with manslaughter in relation to overdose deaths. The courts are coming down hard on alleged drug dealers.

This summer, Michael Hilder stood trial for manslaughter. Hilder was accused of selling drugs tainted with fentanyl that resulted in the overdose death of a 35-year-old.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid used in some pain medications and anesthetics. In recent years it has made its way into the illegal drug market. Being 50-100 times more potent than morphine, fentanyl is very easy to overdose on. It is especially dangerous because it is often sold as or mixed in with heroin or cocaine, unbeknownst to the buyer.

Since 2016, fentanyl and synthetic opioids have become the number one cause of overdose, beating out heroin and opioid painkillers. Last year was the worst year ever for drug overdoses in America with over 200 deaths a day.

In Ontario, Fentanyl is the most common opioid in overdoses by a large margin.

Fentanyl Deaths Ontario

With the severity and danger of fentanyl, it’s not surprising that the legal system is seeking greater ramifications for supplying this drug.

Manslaughter Charges for Drug Offences in Toronto

Adding on manslaughter charges to drug trafficking charges is not a new idea in Canada. In Edmonton, two alleged drug dealers have faced manslaughter charges for fentanyl-related overdoses. The Hilder trial, however, is the first time this sort of charge has occurred in the GTA.

With public pressure weighing and upcoming new drug laws due to marijuana legalization, it’s possible this will become a trend in Toronto drug offence charges.

The key caveat in successful overdose manslaughter charges is that dealers must know the sold drugs were tainted with fentanyl. If an accused dealer knew they were providing drugs laced or mixed with fentanyl they may face charges for manslaughter by criminal negligence.

A criminal negligence charge could apply because although they may not have intended the death to occur, knowingly selling drugs laced with fentanyl qualifies as action in wanton or reckless disregard for the lives of others.

In addition manslaughter, the accused also face drug trafficking charges. The combined charges can result in long imprisonment, especially with other aggravating factors.

Drug Defence Lawyers in Toronto

Drug charges in Toronto carry serious penalties. What you do after being charged with drug offences has a big impact on your freedom and your life. It’s important that you find a criminal defence lawyer with ample experience in handling drug offences.

William Jaksa is an experienced and trusted criminal lawyer that has defended his clients against drug charges in Toronto for over 10 years. Book a consultation today.

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