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Illinois drug-induced homicide law polarizes

In Illinois, not everybody agrees on how to deal with the issue of drug-induced homicide. Some advocate zero-tolerance for suppliers, whereas others say that the issue involves public health considerations, and that it isn’t always clear cut—oftentimes the victim could have been charged as well. One of the outgrowths of the latter position is a law, passed in 2012, which shields those who witness an overdose from drug possession charges when they call 911. That law does not, however, protect witnesses from drug-related homicide charges. The tension between these laws is somewhat confusing until you realize different policies are motivating the laws.

One can face charges of drug-related homicide whenever one makes a delivery of an illegal drug that kills its user. Prosecutors do not often bring such charges against suppliers though.. When they do, the defendant is usually the last personal to have been with the victim before his or her death. In many cases, the person facing the charge is not a big-time street dealer but a friend or lover. Prosecutors have said that it can be difficult to support charges against street dealers because of incomplete or inconsistent witness evidence. 

Under the Illinois law, a defendant is not required to have made an actual sale, which means that the law does not strictly target those selling drugs for profit. Many of those charged are simply young people addicted to drugs and sharing them with another individual. This aspect of the law has been criticized, as well as the fact that the punishments are not necessarily effective. Still, such cases are relatively infrequent.

In any criminal drug charge, including those involving drug-related homicide, it is important to understand the criminal process, the issues involved and effective strategies for minimizing consequences. Working with an experienced attorney is a critical aspect of this process.  

Source: Chicago Tribune, “State drug policy reflects opposing sides,” Christy Gutowski, February 3, 2014. 

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