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Are Virginia prosecutors compounding drug crime charges?

The penalties for distributing drugs are severe, but a recent indictment indicates that dealers may also face criminal liability if their clients overdose.

Specifically, a Leesburg woman was recently indicted on the charge of fatal homicide. Under Virginia law, this offense may be brought against someone accused of accidentally killing another individual while committing a felony. In this case, the woman apparently distributed heroin to 32-year-old man who overdosed. If convicted, this second-degree murder charge could result in between five and 40 years in prison.

The penalties for drug distribution or trafficking already include potentially serious fines and imprisonment. The type of drug also affects the penalty scheme. When coupled with felony homicide and other felony charges, however, an individual might be facing nearly a lifetime in prison. Yet prosecutors in Virginia continue to pursue offenders with aggressive charges.

This underscores the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our attorneys begin that defense with a review of the arrest record. There are a number of procedural inquiries that may be of strategic benefit.  First, did police conduct an unlawful search and seizure? If yes, certain evidence might be excluded from the record.

An attorney will also review the indictment. In some cases, the evidence may indicate that the lesser charge of drug possession would have been appropriate, rather than distribution. Finally, an attorney can also work to minimize the penalties a criminal defendant may be facing. A first time offender might be in a position to make a plea deal.

Source: Loudoun Now, “Grand Jury Issues Murder Indictment in Fatal Overdose,” Jan. 10, 2017

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