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Bill makes it easier to target suppliers in drug overdose deaths

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. That's a common argument Second Amendment supporters use to counter gun control efforts. As we noted in a post last month, some use a somewhat similar argument reacting to efforts to crack down on suppliers in drug overdose deaths. The case they seek to make is that the person responsible for the death is the user, not the supplier.

We are not looking to take one side or the other in this debate. Drug crime allegations already carry significant penalties in Tennessee. Anyone charged with such a crime needs to understand how serious the consequences can be and take the necessary steps to mount a defense. That is their right under the law.

As the law stands now, it is already possible for an alleged drug dealer to be charged with murder in some overdose cases. State code says that if a user of any Schedule I or II drug dies, and the drug is deemed the cause of death, the person who supplied the drug could be charged with Second Degree Murder – a Class A Felony. Those with experience in criminal law are aware that success prosecuting a felony charge usually requires meeting a higher standard than for lesser charges.

That's why one bill under consideration in Nashville is generating news coverage. What it would do is make bringing criminal charges easier against drug suppliers in overdose deaths. The amendment to the state code would make it possible to accuse a distributor with voluntary manslaughter. That would also lower the standard of proof. Instead of the drug being the cause of death, it would only have to be shown to be a "contributing factor."

Whether the measure passes and becomes law remains a question. If it does, it will certainly change the legal playing field in many drug crime cases. We can only wait and watch.

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