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A criminal charge for causing a drug-induced death is extremely serious in New Jersey. It is not only a strict liability offense but also carries the most extreme of penalties as a first-degree crime. If you or a loved one was charged with violating N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 (“Strict liability for drug-induced deaths”) after allegedly distributing/selling/manufacturing heroin, fentanyl, or another controlled dangerous substance, you should find an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The state will undoubtedly file a motion to detain you so that you cannot have the benefit of pretrial release and, worse yet, you will face up to 20 years in prison if you are convicted. An attorney who is skilled in defending homicide and drug crimes is precisely what you need to combat these risks.
We are the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, one of the largest and most experienced criminal firms in the state. The qualifications of our team include:
- Over 200 years of combined experience representing clients arrested for selling or distributing controlled dangerous substances (“CDS”) to individual leading to death
- Ten lawyers that dedicate their practices exclusively to the defense of the accused
- Former county prosecutors that served as Director of the Drug Task Force, Major Crime Bureau, Homicide and an entire Trial Division
- Certified criminal trial attorneys
To discuss your drug-induced death case with an attorney who possesses the know-how to effectively defend you, call 877-450-8301. Lawyers are available 24/7 to discuss your case, help you prepared for a detention hearing or help you with any other aspect of your offense.
Drug-Induced Death Offense in New Jersey
It is common for individuals charged with this offense to be in a state of confusion and even shock. Their involvement with the deceased is frequently very limited with no intent for someone to die yet they find themself arrested on a first-degree crime that is akin to homicide. The easiest way for them to understand why they are facing this violation is to educate them on the offense that forms the basis for their indictment and/or criminal complaint, namely, 2C:35-9. The law reads, in pertinent part, that:
Any person who manufactures, distributes or dispenses methamphetamine, lysergic acid diethylamide, phencyclidine or any other controlled dangerous substance classified in Schedules I or II, or any controlled substance analog thereof, in violation of subsection a. of N.J.S. 2C:35-5, is strictly liable for a death which results from the injection, inhalation or ingestion of that substance, and is guilty of a crime of the first degree.
What this statute is essentially saying is that if you sell drugs of a type found in either Schedule I or Schedule II, and the substance is ingested by another person who dies from it, you are strictly liable for that death and face the penalties for a first-degree crime. The headings below discuss some of the finer points of a drug-induced death charge in NJ.
Elements of Proof. The prosecutor must establish five things beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict someone for violating 2C:35-9. First, the charge must involve LSD, methamphetamine, phencyclidine, or a CDS found in Schedule I or II (e.g. fentanyl). Second, the accused must have sold, distributed, or manufactured the drug. Third, the defendant knew he or she was engaging in conduct that violated N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5. Fourth, the victim must have ingested the drug/CDS provided by the defendant. Fifth, the ingestion of the substance must have caused the death of the victim.
Abuse of the Drug by the Deceased. New Jersey law does not allow a defendant to argue or defend this charge on the basis that the victim was a drug addict, misused, abused or other contributed to his or her own death.
Drug-Induced Death Offense Versus Manslaughter. Unlike a criminal charge for manslaughter or murder, the state does not have to present any evidence concerning intent or even recklessness in causing the death of the victim in order to prove a case under 2C:35-9. All that is required is proof that the drugs distributed by the defendant caused the death and strict liability attaches. Nonetheless, there is no preclusion to the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey or a County Prosecutor attempting to also pursue a manslaughter or murder violation.
Sentencing & Penalties. First-degree drug-induced death charges carry 10-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000. You should also know that This offense does not merge into an offense for being a Leader of a Narcotics Trafficking Network, Maintaining a CDS Production Facility, or even a predicate offense for distribution of heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, MDMA, GHB or another drug. What this means is that you can be sentenced for causing a drug-induced death, separately for the underlying drug offense, and the prison terms can run consecutively.
Top Rated New Jersey Criminal Attorneys for Defending a Drug-Induced Death Charge
There isn’t a higher grade of criminal offense that someone can face in New Jersey than a first-degree crime and this is precisely where a conviction for causing a drug-induced death falls. Logic would say that you need to find the very best lawyer you can find given the ramifications of a guilty plea or verdict against you. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have some of the most formidable qualifications to handle your case that you will find. Members have tried many homicide-related cases, not to mention countless drug charges. To learn more about how we can help you, call 877-450-8301 for a free consultation.