The opioid epidemic has led to the loss of many lives in New York and in the rest of the nation. As the number of overdose deaths has increased, police and prosecutors have started charging some of the bystanders of overdoses with crimes.

According to NPR, prosecutors across the country are charging other people who have shared drugs with or provided drugs to overdose victims with homicide offenses. The prosecutors are bringing charges based on the idea that even sharing or providing nominal amounts of drugs meets the definition of dealing drugs.

In a Pennsylvania case, a woman purchased $10 worth of heroin for her neighbor, who was also a heroin user. The heroin that the woman had purchased and provided was laced with fentanyl, which is a very dangerous drug. The neighbor overdosed and died after taking the heroin, and the woman was arrested and charged with third-degree murder. Prosecutors claim that the woman’s providing $10 worth of heroin was the same as her dealing drugs. If she is convicted as charged, she faces a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.

The drive to prosecute other drug users who are bystanders to overdoses is unlikely to stave the wave of addiction. It might actually worsen the situation because bystanders who are present when someone overdoses may refrain from calling 911 if they think that they might be charged with a crime. People who are facing these types of charges may want to get help from criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible. Experienced attorneys may be able to use their negotiating skills to reach favorable resolutions of the cases against their clients. They may be able to secure plea agreements for treatment instead of prison or convince the prosecutors to dismiss the charges.