In response to a number of drug overdose-related deaths happening statewide, New Hampshire prosecutors are starting to take a tougher stance on certain drug dealers. In an effort to root out the drug problem at its source, drug dealers who deal overdose-prone drugs are being targeted in court. The charge being used to target them, however, has been a part of New Hampshire prosecutors’ ammunition for some time. The charge is known as “death resulting.” As its name implies, the charge comes into play when a person dies as a result of drug usage. This can hold drug dealers liable for the life-threatening harder drugs that result in overdoses.
These charges made recent headlines when Attorney General Joseph A. Foster announced he would pursue them against Kevin Manchester, who was arrested for dealing fentanyl. Fentanyl is a form of synthetic opioid analgesic that has contributed to 280 overdose deaths in 2015, and 54 confirmed deaths as of early May of this year. Attorney General Foster is quoted as saying that knowingly selling potentially deadly drugs is no different than “selling poison.” In another press release Attorney General Foster called the drug a “serial killer,” stating that all who sell the drug should be “held responsible.”
Death resulting charges can be likened to manslaughter. Punishments for charges with death resulting, can be the same as those for murder. This means the potential of a life sentence, though parole is possible. What this means for potential suspects is that charges for selling substances that have even a small chance for overdose are now likely to be investigated further for this charge. While this may seem like it is stopping the problem at its source, it may actually land more individuals with heftier sentences when it may not be warranted.
Some critics of these measures argue that prosecuting the crime at a higher level with higher punishments may only serve to fill prisons with more addicts. Manchester informed the court that he has no desire to “live this life” and that he is “just an addict” who would commit to a treatment program if he were given the chance. While the solution to New Hampshire’s opioid epidemic remains unclear, the state’s pursuit of higher level charges may not necessarily benefit the public. As New Hampshire’s prosecutors gear up to put drug dealers on the defensive, only time will tell whether these stiffer charges will truly have an impact on the state’s drug problems.