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New Jersey’s Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Deaths: A Comprehensive Guide

April 06, 2023

Drug-Induced Death Crime

Controlled substance cases that involve the death of an individual are taken very seriously in New Jersey, perhaps more seriously than other drug-related crimes. New Jersey follows a strict liability process for drug-induced deaths, and defendants can face years behind bars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if convicted. If you face drug-related charges of any kind, especially a drug-induced death charge, contact a South Jersey drug-induced death charge attorney at Stuart Law. Our drug-induced death offense lawyer in Camden County, NJ will fight your case and will employ the right legal strategies needed to lower or dismiss the charges you face.

Statute N.J.S.A. 2C: 35-9 and New Jersey’s Strict Liability for Drug-Induced Deaths

There are over 2,000 drug-related overdose deaths in New Jersey every year, making overdoses a leading cause of death in the state. To combat this health epidemic, New Jersey enacted a strict liability law on drug-induced deaths, called statute N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9. This law applies to anyone who provides drugs to drug-dependent people in cases involving a fatality.

According to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9, anyone who knowingly manufactures and distributes a controlled dangerous substance, such as synthetic opioids or otherwise, will be charged as liable for the death of the user of that controlled dangerous substance. This applies irrespective of whether the death was caused by the injection, inhalation, or ingestion of the said substance. In simpler terms, if someone dies as a result of using drugs that you sold or gave them, you can be held liable for their death.

Being Convicted Under N.J.S.A. 2C: 35-9

You can be convicted of breaking N.J.S.A. 2C: 35-9, New Jersey’s drug-induced death statute, if the prosecution proves that:

  • The victim in question died from abusing Schedule I or Schedule II controlled dangerous substances such as fentanyl;
  • The defendant either sold or distributed the controlled dangerous substance in question;
  • The defendant knew and understood that by manufacturing, distributing, or selling the controlled dangerous substance in question, they were violating N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9;
  • The victim died as a result of ingesting, inhaling, or injecting the controlled dangerous substance that they were provided with by the defendant;
  • The use of the controlled dangerous substance was the immediate and proximate cause of the death of the victim.

Drug-Induced Death Offense Lawyer in Camden County, NJ Can Handle N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 and Strict Liability Laws

Because N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 is a strict liability law, you can be arrested and charged with an induced death even if you did not intend to hurt the victim. This is what makes strict liability cases more serious than other cases, which may require proof of intent to harm someone or break a law.

This means you can face serious charges under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9 even if someone died because of their own negligence, as long as you can be implicated as having manufactured, distributed, or sold them the drugs they used and overdosed on. If the prosecution can prove that, in the absence of the drugs you provided to the victim they would still be alive, you can be charged with a drug-induced death crime. These crimes are treated much like homicides and should not be taken lightly. Contact an experienced drug-induced death offense lawyer in Camden County, NJ at Stuart Law for assistance with your case.

South Jersey Drug-Induced Death Charge Attorney Kimberley Stuart Will Help You Fight Penalties and Sentencing

Drug-induced death cases are categorized as first-degree felonies in New Jersey, and they carry possible jail time of between 10 and 20 years and fines of up to $200,000. If convicted, you must also pay additional fees of $3050 for penalties and lab fees. You can also lose driving privileges for up to two years, but the biggest risk of being convicted is having your free life effectively and indefinitely come to a sudden end with a conviction and years behind bars. Do not leave anything to chance, and contact a drug-induced death offense lawyer in Camden County, NJ at our firm today so that we can fight your case for you.

A Qualified Drug-Induced Death Offense Lawyer in Camden County, NJ at Stuart Law Will Craft a Strong Legal Defense on Your Behalf

The stakes against the defendant in drug-induced death cases are undeniably high, but there are ways to avoid being convicted because the state must prove each aspect of the relevant statute beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be found guilty of breaking the laws in question.

For example, New Jersey’s drug-induced death law requires the prosecution to prove that you somehow offered or provided the drugs in question to the victim. This can be very tricky to do since drug users often purchase their drugs from different suppliers.

Next, even when there is evidence that proves that you supplied the drugs in question on the day that they used them and died, the prosecution must prove that your drug deal was completed. If there is any evidence that proves other factors caused or contributed to the death of the user, that can potentially absolve you of blame as well.

Building a case takes time and requires a thorough examination of the case evidence and an investigation into how and why a victim was killed from drug abuse and what your role was—if any—in those events. Contact a qualified South Jersey drug-induced death charge attorney at Stuart Law to learn more and to have our experienced legal team defend you in your case.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drug-Induced Death Offenses in New Jersey

Which drugs are covered by N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9?

All drugs and controlled dangerous substances on Schedule I and Schedule II, such as fentanyl, as well as methamphetamine, lysergic acid, and phencyclidine, fall under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-9.

What other defenses can I use to avoid a conviction?

In addition to the strategies outlined above, we can attempt to prove that the death in question was not too remote or dependent on the actions of another person unrelated to the injection, inhalation, or ingestion of the substance to fairly have a bearing on the defendant’s liability. If you genuinely believed you were giving the victim something other than drugs—something that may resemble a drug but is otherwise essentially harmless—this might also be grounds for a defense. An experienced South Jersey drug-induced death charge attorney will need to review the specifics of your case before choosing the best possible defense, so contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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