When someone dies as a result of a drug overdose, the individual(s) who supplied the drugs can face felony charges. The names of the charges and the consequences vary by jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania, the term for the charge is “drug delivery resulting in death.” According to a Florida-based analytics company, two counties in Pennsylvania have the highest number of drug delivery resulting in death charges in the entire nation.
In 2018, authorities in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, charged 75 people with drug delivery resulting in death. This was the highest incidence of such charges in the country according to a study conducted in partnership with the Health in Justice Action Lab at Northeastern University and the Florida-based Lumina Analytics company. York County, also in Pennsylvania, came in second place with 45 charges of drug delivery resulting in death. Of the top 10 counties nationwide charging people with drug-induced homicide offenses, Pennsylvania counties make up seven altogether.
The maximum possible prison sentence for conviction on a charge of first-degree drug delivery resulting in death is 20 to 40 years. This is commensurate with the maximum sentence for a third-degree murder conviction. There is currently no minimum required sentence for a conviction on drug delivery resulting in death, but in the past, there was a mandatory minimum of five years in prison.
Authorities defend the role of enforcement in combating the opioid epidemic. Critics, on the other hand, say that the resources going to prosecute people on drug-induced homicide charges could be more effective when put toward treatment programs and education.
There is at least one advocacy group based in New York working to convince lawmakers that prosecution of individuals on such charges is both inhumane and counterproductive. Time will tell if the advocates’ efforts are effective, but in the meantime, those facing drug charges in Pennsylvania may wish to consider hiring an attorney.