Call Today for a FREE Consultation

262-923-8761

24 HOUR EMERGENCY CONTACT

When supplying heroin can lead to homicide charges in Wisconsin

Obviously the use, purchase, sale or delivery of opioids can result in serious criminal penalties. But not everyone is aware that selling – or even just giving – heroin to someone who overdoses can lead to murder charges at both the state and federal level in Wisconsin.

A recent example occurred on September 18, 2015, when prosecutors in Sauk County charged a second person with first-degree reckless homicide for providing heroin to two people who subsequently overdosed. The two victims of the June 1 overdose purchased the heroin for their own use two days prior to their death. The seller and one of the victims’ sons, who set up the sale, were both charged with homicide.

Crackdown amid increasing overdose deaths

Over the last several years, prosecutors in Wisconsin have begun to charge suppliers and dealers with reckless homicide when heroin overdose is the cause of death for a user.

In 2014, the number of prosecutions in Wisconsin for first-degree reckless homicide by drug delivery doubled from 2012.

While such prosecutions are up, Wisconsin counties handle homicide charges relating to supplying heroin differently. For example, Waukesha, Fond du Lac and La Crosse are more aggressive in prosecuting these cases, according to an AP article which looked at the heroin prosecutions in Wisconsin. Other counties have yet to prosecute a single case.

Murder charges for drug distribution can also come at the federal level. Federal prosecution of such cases remains relatively rare, although federal prosecutors are also increasingly bringing charges against suppliers.

High burden of proof

One reason prosecution remains uncommon is that prosecutors have a high burden of proof when bringing such charges. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 2014 ruling, held that a drug supplier can receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison under federal law if the prosecutors can prove that the drug provided by the dealer or distributor was the one that killed the individual. This can be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, as many drugs may have been in an individual’s system at the time of death and the user may have bought or obtained drugs from a variety of sources.

The same is true of state charges. In order to be guilty of homicide, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged supplied the drug that killed the person, and that the drug was the cause of death.

Of course, many people who overdose have a variety of drugs in their system and may have purchased the same drug from various sources, making it difficult for prosecutors to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Charged with heroin or drug crime? Contact Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C.

If you have been charged with a drug crime, including distribution resulting in death, you need the knowledge and experience of a criminal defense attorney familiar with drug crime defense in Wisconsin. You can contact Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C., to discuss your situation and legal options.

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)