Advocacy Call on Drug-Induced Homicide Laws

Advocacy Call on Drug-Induced Homicide Laws


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On October 30, 2019, NACDL hosted an advocacy call on drug-induced homicide laws. Speakers included Valena Elizabeth Beety, Professor of Law at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, and Deputy Director of the Academy for Justice, a new criminal justice center connecting research with policy reform; Leo Beletsky, Associate Professor of Law and Health Sciences at Northeastern University, where he is the faculty director of the Health in Justice Action Lab; and Lindsey LaSalle, Managing Director, Public Health, Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Background:
On the books in many states and federally, drug-induced homicide laws have gained in popularity as the country deals with an increase in drug overdose deaths. Drug-induced homicide laws seek to hold drug distributors criminally responsible for overdose deaths. Believed to target major drug traffickers, these laws are actually resulting in friends, family members and romantic partners of overdose victims being charged for their death. According to a 2017 report by the Drug Policy Alliance, individuals charged with or prosecuted for drug-induced homicide increased by over 300 percent in six years, to 1,178 in 2016 from 363 in 2011. Racial disparities are present with a disproportionate number of charges being brought in cases where the victim is white and the dealer is a person of color. Racial bias is also evident in the gaping disparity of the sentences being handed down to drug-induced homicide defendants of color – a median of nearly nine years, compared to five years for white defendants.

Resources:
Health in Justice Action Lab 
Drug-Induced Homicide Defense Toolkit
Charging ‘Dealers’ with Homicide: Explained
America’s Favorite Antidote: Drug-Induced Homicide in the Age of the Overdose Crisis
"A Dose of Reality: Drug Death Investigations and the Criminal Justice System", The Champion
The Overdose/Homicide Epidemic
DIH Law Proliferation 2009 2019 map (video)
DIH Law Proliferation 2009 2019 bar chart (video)

Learn more about NACDL's State Criminal Justice Network. Monica L. Reid, Host.  Music I Will! Rise Above (Jared C. Balogh) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

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