Under Florida law, the death of an individual can be more than a tragic accident or the heartbreaking result of addiction. Depending on the circumstances, police and prosecutors often treat it as a homicide.
Traditionally, to convict someone of first-degree homicide, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended to cause the deceased’s death. However, a major exception to the intent element is when the deceased died from an overdose of an illegal drug or controlled substance. In those cases, it does not matter if the defendant intended for the deceased to die. In Florida, they can still be convicted and sentenced to life in prison or even the death penalty.
Overdose homicide charges happen in Florida
Recently, a grand jury in Lake County indicted a man on a first-degree homicide charge related to an unidentified person’s death in January. According to prosecutors, the person overdosed on fentanyl that the accused man provided. The grand jury agreed that there is enough evidence that the defendant provided the fentanyl to proceed with criminal charges.
A controversial statute
The option for prosecutors to seek first-degree murder charges based on an accidental overdose is controversial, especially when it comes to combating widespread addiction to fentanyl and other prescription drugs. Critics say this policy discourages people from calling 911 when a friend or relative is suffering an overdose out of fear they will be charged with a crime. Therefore, more people could be dying from drug overdoses than necessary.
Whatever the circumstances, homicide charges put your freedom on the line. Finding an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical for protecting your rights.