Equivalent to the rest of the country, Georgia is facing a rise in overdose deaths from opioids, specifically fentanyl and other drugs, even prescription drug clones, that are laced with deadly doses of fentanyl. In June 2022, after a seven-month investigation, a 34-year-old Georgia man was charged with felony murder and other drug-related crimes.
In 2021, a similar case of a drug dealer who, facing felony murder charges for distributing heroin laced with fentanyl that led to an overdose death, pled guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 30 years served. He also pled guilty to multiple violations of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act. Prosecutors called the conviction a major step in the battle against the opioid epidemic sweeping Georgia and the nation.
For many years, even decades, police tended to view overdose deaths as accidents. They would go to the scene and investigate, but largely just involve the coroner and file a report. As overdose deaths began rising along with the influx of opioids, especially fentanyl, police, and prosecutors began looking at overdose deaths as victims of a crime – the crime of supplying the deadly drug to the deceased.
Georgia has embraced the paradigm shift and, as the above two examples show, is now viewing the drug dealer, or the person who illegally provides the drug that causes the death, as potentially guilty of the state’s felony murder statute.
If you are facing a felony murder charge for supplying a deadly drug to an overdose victim in or around Woodstock, Georgia, contact the Law Office of Jay G. Wall immediately. Attorney Jay G. Wall is a former prosecutor who prides himself on staying one step ahead of prosecutors by anticipating their next move to the benefit of your defense. The Law Office of Jay G. Wall also serves clients in Canton, Marietta, and Cartersville, Georgia.
The Opioid Problem in Georgia
From 2019 to 2021, the Georgia Department of Public Health reports that overdose deaths in the state increased by 55.9 percent. During the same time frame, overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased by 218.4 percent.
Nationwide, the trend is just as ominous. The number of overdose deaths annually has topped 100,000, whereas it stood at only 71,000 in 2019. Many of these deaths can be attributed to the influx of prescription drug clones and other drugs like heroin that are now being laced with fentanyl, often at deadly doses.
Felony Murder in Georgia
Georgia Code Section 16-5-1(a) states: “A person commits the offense of murder when he unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.” And Section 16-5-1(c) clarifies that “A person commits the offense of murder when, in the commission of a felony, he or she causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.”
Thus, in the case of a drug overdose death, there is no requirement that prosecutors show malice or the intent to kill on the part of the supplier of the deadly drug. They only need show the intent to commit a felony, which is trafficking in the drug. The only penalties listed in the statute are death, life imprisonment without parole, and imprisonment for life.
Drug Law Enforcement in Georgia
While felony murder charges have been applied to individual suppliers personally responsible for the drug that led to an overdose death, the same charge is yet to be levied against a manufacturer, distributor, or doctor who runs a pill mill. This does not mean, however, that these groups or individuals who operate on a larger scale are without legal jeopardy.
Drug trafficking, which means selling, manufacturing, or transporting controlled substances, can be levied against an individual or group in possession of a certain amount of the drug, even if there is no evidence of actual or intended distribution. Possessing four grams or more of heroin or another opium derivative, for instance, is considered trafficking absent even any attempt to distribute it.
Turn to Reliable Representation
If you provide a drug to some who dies from an overdose and you’re charged with felony murder, you need to seek knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense representation immediately.
The charge of felony murder for distributing a drug that results in an overdose death has serious consequences. You and your defense attorney can aggressively challenge prosecutor evidence and witness testimony to force the prosecution to prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
At the Law Office of Jay G. Wall, Attorney Jay G. Wall has the resources, intelligence, and skill set to build a strong defense. If you’re facing a felony murder charge for an overdose death in Canton, Marietta, Cartersville, or Woodstock, Georgia, contact the Law Office of Jay G. Wall immediately. Look to a brighter future and don’t face these challenges alone; contact him today.