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When drug crime prosecution makes a drug problem worse

For years now, public health officials, lawmakers and police have struggled with what they call an opioid crisis. As highly addictive prescription opioid drugs hit the market, they spurred a market for illegal drugs with similar chemistry and effects. Some of these drugs are very powerful, and it is easy for users to accidentally overdose, especially when they don't know exactly what they are taking. One result has been a sharp increase in drug-related deaths in Pennsylvania and many other states.

One way Pennsylvania has dealt with the problem is through prosecuting homicide charges against people who supply the drugs in fatal overdoses. These charges are sometime called "drug delivery resulting in death" or "drug-induced homicide." Pennsylvania reportedly prosecutes these cases more than any other state. Prosecutors say these charges will deter people from abusing drugs, or at least spur dealers to be more careful about the drugs they sell.

Recently, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board made a counter argument. The editors argue that there is no evidence that the charges deter people from using drugs, but there is evidence that the charges will prevent people from calling 911 when someone suffers an overdose. As a result, they say, the prosecution of these charges may actually be making things worse. Rather than reducing the number of opioid-related deaths, prosecutors may be increasing it.

The government's prosecution-heavy approach to drug problems has led countless people into terrible legal trouble. It's important to remember that everyone deserves a defense.

If you have been accused of drug crimes, talk to a skilled criminal defense lawyer about your options. If at all possible, talk to a defense lawyer about your case before you talk to anyone else.

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