Stop Drug Homicide

Why are Drug Dealers
Getting Away with Murder?

Drug Homicide Deaths 1999 - 2023

Stop Drug Homicide is a California-based nonprofit committed to uniting families affected by drug-related deaths. We advocate for stringent legislation suited to today’s drug landscape and thorough homicide investigations by law enforcement when controlled substance deliveries result in death. United, we transform our collective grief into a powerful force for change.

A drug-related death occurs nearly every 7 minutes in America. Illicit drugs are now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45, with man-made illicit fentanyl involved in the majority of these fatalities. These deaths now surpass those caused by car accidents, firearms, suicide, and illness.

Most illicit fentanyl is manufactured in China and Mexico before being illegally smuggled into the United States. Fentanyl is highly addictive, extremely lethal, and very cheap to produce. Drug dealers are pressing counterfeit pills to mimic legitimate pharmaceutical medications such as Xanax, Percocet, and Oxycodone. Instead, these counterfeit pills contain useless filler and illicit fentanyl, which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Additionally, fentanyl is being added to less lethal street drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. This heinous act by cartels and drug dealers is driven solely by financial gain, with absolute disregard for human life.

While China and drug cartels in Mexico play a major role in the illicit drug supply chain, American drug dealers are also significant contributors. Some argue that arresting drug dealers does not impact drug deaths, but we disagree. The reality is that less than two percent of all drug deaths result in the conviction of a drug dealer. Until drug dealers are held accountable, deaths will continue, and drug dealers will continue getting away with murder.


Dealing Death

A person commits drug homicide when he or she unlawfully delivers a controlled substance to another, and any person’s death is caused by the injection, inhalation, absorption, or ingestion of any amount of that controlled substance.
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Dealing Anguish

As the country struggles to contain the worst drug crisis in its history, families of victims are shattered. They suffer in solitude, staggering under the tremendous weight of shock, loss, sorrow, and outrage.

It’s time for JUSTICE.


We Are The Voice Of Those Who Cannot Speak For Themselves.

Support our mission to:
  • Elevate awareness about the impact of effective criminal investigations and prosecutions in reducing deaths from illicit drugs.

  • Advocate for a critical shift in judicial perspectives, transitioning from treating drug-related deaths as accidental to recognizing them as criminal.

  • Push for stronger laws that ensure stringent accountability for those who intentionally distribute illicit drugs.

  • Provide dedicated support to families of victims impacted by unlawful distribution of controlled substances resulting in death.

Have you lost a loved one to drug homicide and need answers?

Your loved one’s cell phone may hold the answers you need and help you get the justice you deserve.

Second Peek Investigations provides data extraction services for families affected by drug homicide. 
If the cell phone contains evidence, the data is secured so that it is admissible in a court of law.
Contact us to learn more.

What You Can Do

Let your elected officials and Law enforcement know that enough is enough.

Together we can and will bring these perpetrators to justice.

Read The Brief

For many years, most prosecutors charged only those drug-related deaths involving rival drug gang fights as being homicides. But the focus has now broadened to also examine overdose deaths as prosecutable homicides against those who sold and distributed the drugs causing the overdose. It is important to emphasize that not every death because of a drug overdose is a criminal matter. Some are suicides, and some are simply accidents. But some deaths, legally and ethically, may rise to the level of criminal homicide. These homicides may not be easily discovered, investigated, prosecuted or proven, but they still deserve attention. For that to happen, a paradigm shift in thinking by law enforcement officers and prosecutors is required, away from attitudes focusing on accident to thinking and treating overdoses as homicides.

In order to make that shift, it is important to understand and appreciate the variety of approaches available within existing statutory schemes and case law. While a handful of states have no statutory or case law basis for treating overdose deaths as homicides,[8] the majority already had or have adopted a wide variety of legal theories useful in addressing these cases. Two basic options highlight the differing approaches: use of the existing statutory structure, often referred to as the felony murder rule, and creation of a specific offense of death resulting from the distribution of controlled substances.

What might be characterized as the traditional approach to the matter may be found in those states that have included overdose deaths within their murder statute. Arizona and Oklahoma, among others, list drug offenses as crimes which, when a death occurs during the commission of that offense, is treated as murder.[9] A significant number of states enumerate drug offenses within their murder statutes and, while the laws have been on the books for a considerable time, they are only now being considered for use in overdose cases.

A felony murder statute allows the prosecutor to charge an offense which requires no specific mental state other than that required for the enumerated offense;[10] the law may specifically state that no proof of intent to cause the death is required.[11] In general, proof of the underlying offense and the cause of death will be sufficient to obtain a conviction under this approach. Additional elements, such as proof that the underlying felony must be inherently dangerous to human life,[12] or proof of recklessness in both causation and appreciation or awareness of the risk,[13] may be required in some states.

Where these various felony murder states differ is in their classifications for punishment for the offense. The possibilities range from first degree or capital murder,[14] second degree murder,[15] manslaughter,[16] involuntary manslaughter,[17] and even negligent homicide.[18] They may also limit the application of the statute. For example, Florida’s statute applies only to distribution by an adult,[19] while Colorado’s statute applies only to distribution to a minor on school grounds.[20]

Those states punishing drug dealing resulting in death as a specific offense have adopted a variety of approaches as well. These “drug-induced homicide” statutes are crafted as stand-alone felonies rather than being included in existing murder or other statutes. Again, as with the felony murder alternatives, the treatment of punishment and application may vary. New Hampshire and New Jersey both define the offense as being one of strict liability.[21] Both statutes, mirroring one another, apply to methamphetamine, lysergic acid, diethylamide phencyclidine (PCP), or any other Schedule I and II controlled substances and provides that any person who manufactures, sells, or dispenses the substances in violation of law is strictly liable for a death resulting from their use.

The varieties of these statutes are numerous and diverse. Pennsylvania’s statute applies to any controlled substance and provides that the delivery must be done intentionally.[22] Delaware has imposed a minimum weight threshold to its statute, requiring, for example, that there be delivery of at least one gram or more of heroin.[23] Michigan’s law covers Schedule I and II controlled substances, but specifically excludes marijuana.[24] A recent amendment to the Illinois law allows for prosecution for a death within the state caused by a drug that was delivered outside the state in violation of the law of that other jurisdiction.[25]

For those states, such as California, which have no felony murder or drug-induced homicide statute that would apply to overdose situations, prosecutors are left to cobble together a criminal liability theory using a second degree murder or manslaughter charge with a negligence or reckless element. California might make use of its involuntary manslaughter statute.[26] New York might make use of its statutes regarding criminally negligent homicide (criminal negligence standard) or manslaughter in the second degree (reckless standard).[27] A bill to amend Ohio’s involuntary manslaughter statute to include causing or contributing to the death of a person as a result of the sale, delivery, or administration of a controlled substance and making it a strict liability offense was introduced but has languished since 2016.[28]

Regardless of the criminal statute scheme, one element is the lynchpin to the crime: causation. Whether a felony murder, strict liability, or reckless or negligent theory, causation raises perhaps the most difficult issues in proving these cases.

Overdose cases have a number of matters that may cause the prosecutor some concern, from lack of sympathy for the victim to proving who provided the drugs. On top of these, many of the victims in overdose death cases are polysubstance abusers, injecting or ingesting a wide variety of both legal and illegal substances. Further, because of their drug addictions, their overall general health may be compromised, making them susceptible to diseases and conditions which might impact the situation leading to their deaths. It becomes imperative for the prosecutor to understand what is needed to prove regarding causation.

States have enumerated a variety of different legal standards for causation of death; “direct result,” “caused by,” “proximately caused,” and “results from” being the more common. Also included are “recklessly causes” and “more likely than not.” Each standard has its own legal ramification. It is important to note, however, that the analysis of proximate causation in tort law is quite different from that analysis applied in criminal law. Mere negligence may suffice in a personal injury case, but not in a criminal matter where gross or wanton disregard is needed to show criminal negligence.

In those states making use of a result-oriented scheme, states may follow the reasoning set forth in the leading federal case on the issue, Burrage v United States.[29] Burrage was prosecuted under the provisions of 21 U. S. C. § 841(b) (1) (C) which provides for punishment in the event that “death or serious bodily injury result[ed] from the use of [the drug].” In Burrage, long-time drug user Banka died following an extended binge that included using heroin purchased from Burrage. At trial, medical experts testified that Bank might have died even if he had not taken the heroin Burrage provided. Denying a motion for judgment of acquittal, the trial court instructed the jury that the government only had to prove that heroin was a contributing cause of death. The U.S. Supreme Court looked at both actual and proximate cause, holding that, at least where the use of the drug distributed by Burrage was not an independently sufficient cause of the victim’s death, he could not be held liable unless such use is a “but-for” cause of death. Thus, under Burrage, a particular drug causing a contributory effect to death is not sufficient to create criminal liability.

This narrow approach to causation makes it especially important that the medical examiner and toxicologist both be consulted prior to initiating a prosecution. Beyond the issue of whether the death is an accident versus a homicide, the medical examiner and toxicologist must understand the legal requirements and what ultimately may be asked of them during testimony in homicide prosecutions such as these. The prosecutor must also understand the distinctions and potential nuances in the medical examiner’s stated cause of death.

Even under a felony murder scheme, often seen as a strict liability situation, causation may still be required. For example, the sole act of selling heroin to a purchaser, who, voluntarily and out of the presence and without the assistance of the seller, subsequently injected heroin and died as a result, may be insufficient to invoke the felony murder rule. In order to convict of felony-murder, it may be necessary in some jurisdictions to show that the conduct causing the death was done while in the commission of a felony or in furtherance of the design to commit the felony.[30] Thus, if the commission of the felony is completed upon the sale, a felony murder charge cannot stand. Nor may the result causation element be ignored even in the strict liability situations. These statutes may still contain a result oriented causation requirement.[31]

Thus, even when not specifically enumerated in the statute, causation remains an essential element. For example, where manufacturing or delivering a controlled substance is the underlying felony relied upon in a felony murder prosecution, the state might still be required to prove (1) the commission or attempt to commit the felony; (2) the defendant’s participation in such felony; and (3) the death of the victim as a result of injuries received during the course of the commission or attempt.[32] Furthermore, the cause of death might not necessarily be the sole cause of death.[33] And where the medical examiner has found that the ingestion of the drug was not the sole cause of death, the prosecutor will face an additional legal hurdle. Thus, in order to make the shift to treating overdose deaths as homicides, it is imperative that investigators and prosecutors find not only the correct legal scheme under which to proceed, but also be mindful of the causation element embedded in a statute or required by a jurisdiction’s case law.

Prosecuting overdose deaths as homicides will not be the silver bullet to the public health crisis this nation faces. However, it is one tool in the law enforcement arsenal which, if used appropriately, can assist locally in focusing on the drug dealers who take advantage of those who have become addicted to opioids.

Attend A Rally

A rally or candlelight vigil can raise awareness while honoring the lives of those we have lost.
Find a local event.

Contact Your Elected Representatives

We urge you to contact your State Representatives today. Your voice can help pass effective laws that empower law enforcement to remove drug dealers from our communities. Representatives care about your opinion. Let’s make a powerful impact together.
Contact Your Elected Representatives

Make A Donation

We’ve already made great strides in raising awareness and influencing prosecutors to hold drug dealers accountable for the lives they destroy, but we still have a long way to go.

Click here to make a donation.

News & Media Coverage

The facts about the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, and Theft Reduction Act

Using new AI, grieving moms discover how California lawmakers killed popular fentanyl bill by *not* ​voting


They fought for fentanyl legislation. It got killed last year before lawmakers even got to vote and grieving moms want to know why. They’re using a new search tool designed to help everyday Californians hold lawmakers accountable and expose what’s really happening behind closed Capitol doors. Turns out, that California lawmakers kill popular bills by *not* voting.

25 out of 50 States currently have a Drug Homicide Statute.

Click on your state to learn more.


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