Published November, 2017

An Overdose Death Is Not Murder: Why Drug-Induced Homicide Laws Are Counterproductive and Inhumane, Drug Policy Alliance (2017)

This report from the Drug Policy Alliance offers a snapshot of drug-induced homicide laws and prosecutions in 2017. These are laws that punish people who sold or shared drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose with penalties equal to those for murder.  The report outlines how these laws fail to promote public health or reduce the use or sale of drugs— instead, drug-induced homicide laws can actually discourage people from seeking life-saving medical assistance.

Most prosecutions do not involve high-level drug sellers. Instead, prosecutors go after the family and friends of overdose victims, along with people who sell small amounts of drugs.  While data remain limited, the report also suggests that drug-induced homicide prosecutions are targeting people of color, consistent with how drug war policies have been enforced over past decades. Similar to HIV criminal laws, drug-induced homicide cases do not require that someone intended to do harm and result in severe punishment.