When a person dies of a drug overdose in New York, the dealers or traffickers who supplied the drugs involved may face drug charges, but are generally not held legally responsible for the person’s death. This could change if Laree’s Law, which has already passed the Senate, passes the New York Assembly. Laree’s Law would apply to drug dealers and traffickers who distribute opiates which result in a drug user’s death. The proposed law – named for Laree Farrell Lincoln, a teen who died in 2013 of a drug overdose – comes in response to the ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States.
Under Laree’s Law, a drug user who intended to use the drug with the deceased will not be charged with a homicide. Instead, the law aims to target the higher-level drug dealers, and hold them accountable for deaths resulting from the drugs they are selling. In other words, what would have previously resulted in a charge for “criminal sale of a controlled substance” could become a homicide charge. Other states have passed similar legislation, but it remains unclear if New York will do the same.
For people who have been drawn into opioid use, either from a prescription or from other means, it is worth noting these recent legislative attempts to quell the epidemic. Whether such legislative attempts will be an effective deterrent against drug distribution remains to be seen, but this trend should be of concern for those who may face drug charges in the future. For some, a drug sale may no longer be just a drug sale — it may be a homicide.