Have you ever shared an old bottle of prescription painkillers with a friend or relative? A lot of people have. Similarly, it’s not uncommon for people to share their stash of illegal drugs with friends or relatives, too. 

Unfortunately, when something goes wrong and someone dies from a drug overdose or has a fatal reaction to the drugs, the authorities now consider the person who supplied that drug to be guilty of murder or manslaughter. 

While drug-induced homicide laws have been on the books for decades in a lot of states, the number of actual prosecutions is on the rise. Once upon a time, an overdose was treated as a mere accident, the sad consequences of drug abuse and addiction. Now, police and prosecutors are increasingly inclined to treat the death as a crime. 

That tactic doesn’t just net real criminals and drug dealers, however: It also puts ordinary people behind bars who never meant any harm along with those who are simply suffering from the same addiction they share with the victim. Between 2011-2016, for example, Missouri prosecuted no less than 134 people for drug-related deaths.

Critics of these prosecutions point out that they aren’t effective at curbing drug overdoses because most overdoses are either driven by addiction, inexperience or desperation. An addict is still going to go after their fix, despite the danger. Someone who is just experimenting with drugs may not even realize how much danger they’re in. Someone suffering from intolerable pain doesn’t care about the risk they are taking. None of that logic has prevailed on prosecutors so far — and it probably won’t in the near future, either. 

If you are facing charges due to a drug-related death, make certain that you take steps to protect your rights. Talk to an experienced defense attorney before you even think about talking to the police.