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Best Defenses for Fentanyl Murder Cases

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jan 08, 2024

Many people are being charged with Penal Code 187 PC second-degree murder related to Fentanyl deaths across California. When you figure out what precisely the angle is that the prosecutors are using to charge murder, you will realize what they are doing.

They are looking at the fact that somebody died, and they're looking to try to blame somebody, and they're going to trace wherever those drugs came from.  If they can trace it to you or a loved one, they're going to charge a murder case against you. 

If charged, your bail will likely be between a million and two million dollars. Sometimes, even no bail if they think you're enough of a danger to the community, and you'll be facing many years in prison.  In California, second-degree murder is described as the unlawful killing of a human being that is done with malice aforethought but without deliberation and premeditation. 

In other words, second-degree murder is any murder that does not rise to the level of first-degree murder. Unlike first-degree murder, second-degree murder is not deliberate and premeditated. California Penal Code 189 PC is the statute that sets forth the degrees of murder.

What if a defendant supplies someone with fentanyl who dies from an overdose but didn't intend to kill? How could they be charged with murder? 

It's a legal theory based on a California Supreme Court case called the People vs. Watson. This infamous case allowed prosecutors to charge someone with second-degree murder where the defendant had not intended to kill but had done something so dangerous to human life, having the subjective knowledge of that danger.

Second-degree murder is a felony offense in California and is punishable by a term in state prison of 15 years to life. 

What is Implied Malice?

There are two kinds of malice aforethought under California criminal laws: express malice and implied malice. Proof of either is enough to establish the state of mind required for murder.

A defendant acts with “express malice” if they unlawfully intend to kill, which would not apply in most fentanyl murder cases. A defendant acts with “implied malice” if they did the following: 

  • Intentionally committed the act,
  • The natural and probable consequences of the act were dangerous to human life,
  • At the time the defendant acted, they knew their act was dangerous to human life and
  • The defendant deliberately acted with conscious disregard for human life.

Malice aforethought does not require ill will toward the victim, but it must be formed before the act that causes death gets committed. Implied malice is when the defendant demonstrates a conscious disregard for human life, called a “depraved indifference.”

Simply put, second-degree murder in California is all other types of killing with malice aforethought. There is no premeditation, and the killing is not deliberate. Instead, the defendant acts in a highly reckless way that any reasonable person would know would likely result in death.

What Factors are Considered? 

The way to turn the tide on these murder cases is to be able to show that you were not the one who gave the person the fentanyl that ended up killing them.  Some factors the prosecutors will undoubtedly consider are the following:

  • Your criminal record,
  • Whether or not you are a Fentanyl user and,
  • The facts and circumstances surrounding the individual's death.  

But I can see both at the state and federal level across California, as these deaths continue to mount up, prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement are looking for someone to blame. They're looking to put a message out there to people that if you deal with fentanyl and people die, you're going to be held accountable, and you're going to be held responsible to a high level. 

What Does Your Defense Lawyer Need to Know?

So, the things that I look at when I meet with a client or their family who are charged with murder related to a fentanyl death are:

  • Precisely what happened? 
  • How this happened?  
  • Why it happened?
  • Do you have a job?    
  • Are you a gang member?
  • Do you have a prior criminal record?

Once I get these questions answered, that will usually give me an idea of whether it is a justifiable charge of murder against a person versus just a simple sale of drug case, which carries a much less potent sentence.

These are some of the factors that the prosecutors and judges will be looking at.  Someone who is a career drug dealer who won't stop getting convicted for drugs and kills somebody, that person is not going to be examined too kindly by the power that be.

On the other hand, somebody who is a drug dealer and who is sharing their drugs with another person and has death results will be looked at more favorably than somebody who sits in a position of dealing drugs consistently and has a lengthy criminal record.  

How Can our Defense Attorneys Help You?

Many people in law enforcement say that fentanyl is the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered and that it's everywhere, from large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison.

Fentanyl Murder Cases

The shocking increase in deaths has put pressure on all narcotics investigators, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the smallest police departments, to make sure the families get justice. 

An investigation into a death from an illicit drug often starts when someone calls 911. The first responders are patrol officers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and police detectives. They all work together at the scene to collect any items of potential evidence for potential prosecution. 

If you are charged with PC 187 murder related to fentanyl, you will need to contact a California criminal defense attorney who can not only fight these murder cases and attack the prosecutor's evidence but also someone who has experience in mitigating these cases.

You need someone who knows how to set things up so that you or a loved one can get something other than a murder conviction. If you need the best, you or a loved one is charged with a murder death related to fentanyl overdose, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.