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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Supreme Court: Dealers Not Responsible For Overdose Death

English: The United States Supreme Court, the ...
Over the years, whenever someone dies as the result of a drug overdose there are many who believe that the supplier of the drug should be held responsible for the death. In 1986, a federal drug law required a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence when “death or serious bodily injury results from the use” of drugs from a dealer.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled a heroin dealer cannot be held liable for a client’s death and thereby incur a longer sentence; if heroin only contributed to the death but was not necessarily the only cause.

Marcus Burrage received a 20 year sentence for a heroin sales charge and an extra 20 years for the death of his client, Joshua Banka. While Banka had other drugs in his system at the time of his death, an expert testified that his death would have been “very less likely” if heroin were not present. As a result of the new Supreme Court ruling, Burrage’s sentence is likely to be reduced, according to USA Today.

Is it sufficient that use of a drug made the victim’s death 50 percent more likely? Fifteen percent? Five? Who knows?” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the ruling. “Uncertainty of that kind cannot be squared with the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard applicable in criminal trials or with the need to express criminal laws in terms ordinary persons can comprehend.”

The Supreme Court ruling will probably make it more difficult in the future for prosecutors to extend drug sentences, according to the article.

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Today we would like to offer our condolences to Phillip Seymour Hoffman's family. Mr Hoffman died Sunday, February 2, 2014, as a result of a heroin overdose. Many are writing about his life and his resume, both stage and film. Dan Rodricks of The Baltimore Sun  writes eloquently of how addiction affects not only the rich and famous...but the rest of us.

"Hoffman was accomplished and respected, hailed as the greatest actor of his generation, and he presumably had wealth. But clearly none of those things was as powerful as the drug he injected into his body, or the pain he was trying to relieve. He joined a long, horrible line of Americans — most of them remembered only by family and friends — who destroyed themselves because they could not overcome heroin addiction."
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