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Drug charges increased against alleged seller of fentanyl

In New Hampshire it is a felony to sell a controlled drug that results in death. With the widespread advent of the super-killer drug, fentanyl, in the past few years, drug charges pursuant to that felony provision have become rather prominent. Such a criminal law straddles the divide between allegations of selling drugs and those alleging the commission of homicide, making such a prosecution a relatively recent innovation both here and nationwide.

The charge does not accuse the suspect of an act of homicide, however, but rather it remains focused on the sale of the dangerous substance to a person who then dies from the drug. Some difficult issues of proof exist in such a prosecution, including proving that the drug allegedly sold to the victim actually caused the victim's death. That requires the prosecution to rule out by credible medical evidence that some other cause was not at fault.

The authorities in Hillsborough County recently used the statute to obtain an indictment against a 44-year-old male who lives in Massachusetts. The recent court charges say that the suspect sold fentanyl to a 25-year-old male on or about June 19 and the victim died of an overdose. A grand jury in Nashua issued the indictment in late October. The sale allegedly took place in a Family Dollar store in Pelham in early 2017.

Prior to that, the defendant had received four other drug charges in New Hampshire regarding other incidents, and had entered a plea of not guilty to them. The court documents indicate that the other drug charges included possession and sale of fentanyl and cocaine. If convicted of the recent charges, he could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Depending on the strength of the prosecution's evidence, plea bargaining to avoid a life sentence may be the most prudent strategy for the defendant. 

Source:, "Mass. man charged for drug sale that caused Pelham fatality", Kimberly Houghton, Nov. 6, 2017

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