Last month the Superior Court of Pennsylvania rejected a challenge to the charge known as “drug delivery resulting in death,” which means that the state will not have to prove that a defendant intended for a victim to die as a result of drugs the defendant administered to the deceased. The Pennsylvania legislature revised the charge in 2011; previously the charge was considered a type of third-degree murder, which would require proof of intent to murder (albeit not premeditation) for conviction. With the current wording of the charge, the state only has to prove that the defendant acted recklessly – not that he or she intended to cause death – in order to secure a conviction. 

The charge was changed with the aim of facilitating prosecution and increasing penalties for individuals charged with selling drugs when those drugs proved responsible for another’s death. 

The case in question involved a 29-year-old man who had used heroin with a 21-year-old woman. The woman died as a result of her heroin use. The court convicted the man, who had admitted to having given the woman heroin knowing the risks of the drug. The man was sentenced to spend between 4 and 12 years in prison for the charge of drug delivery resulting in death. 

Drug charges are serious, and the consequences of a conviction can be draconian, even when the charges don’t involve a death. And in the case of drug delivery resulting in death, a wording change to the charge has lowered the bar for state prosecutors looking for a conviction. If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, contact a criminal attorney immediately to help protect your rights, your record and your future.