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Drug charges sought against dealer of fentanyl to overdose victim

The New Hampshire Attorney General is seeking a conviction against a purported drug dealer in a fentanyl overdose case that involves an out-of-state dealer and an out-of-state drug transaction. Three others have been charged in the 30-year-old male decedent's overdose death for their alleged roles in obtaining and providing the drug to the victim in this state. The Attorney General states that this is the first pursuit of an out-of-state resident for the drug charges called "drug distribution, death resulting."

The interesting twist in the case is the issue of whether the Attorney General Gordon MacDonald can arrest a dealer in another state who never came into this state to conduct the transaction. A spokesperson for MacDonald's office asserted that because the crime "touched" this state and because the death occurred here, New Hampshire has jurisdiction. At least one of those charged has entered a guilty plea and is serving a sentence of six years.

The transaction took place nearly a year ago when the victim and three others traveled to Lawrence, Massachusetts where they purchased fentanyl from the drug dealer who is now under indictment here in New Hampshire. One of the difficulties for the government in this prosecution is proving criminal intent on the part of the decedent's three companions, and then on the part of the drug dealer himself. The wording of the criminal indictment in this matter tends to blur the line between the meaning of drug charges and homicide charges.

The defendants who traveled with the victim to purchase the drugs can strongly argue that they did not harbor specific criminal intent to kill the overdose victim nor were they acting on his behalf to obtain drugs. This argument has vitality, despite the guilty plea and stiff sentence meted out to the one defendant. There is a constitutional line that prohibits convicting someone when mens rea (criminal intent) is entirely absent. Whether the statute that these drug charges are based on is valid is therefore a question that may have to be decided by an appellate court and ultimately, by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Source:, "AG plans to prosecute Mass. man for Rochester drug death", Kimberley Haas, Oct. 10, 2017

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