Murder Charges and the Opioid Epidemic

Jeff wrote on Monday about efforts by North Carolina government officials to combat the opioid epidemic.The initiatives he highlighted, such as addiction treatment and needle exchange programs, primarily attack the problem from a public health perspective. Jeff noted the contrast between this approach and the criminal-drug-law enforcement response to the spread of crack cocaine in the 1990s.

That’s not to say, however, that the criminal justice system isn’t responding to the current crisis. In counties across the State, including New Hanover, Onslow, Pender, Pitt, Union, and Wake, prosecutors are pursuing second-degree murder charges against defendants who are alleged to have provided the opioids leading to victims’ deaths.

This post explores the basis for murder charges based on the unlawful distribution of drugs and what the State must prove at trial to establish a defendant’s guilt.

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What Is State Government Doing to Combat the Opioid Epidemic?

America is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and North Carolina is no exception. The CDC reports that “[s]ince 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids . . . quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses.” A new report based on health insurance data put four North Carolina cities among the 25 worst in the nation for opioid abuse. What is our state government doing about this?

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