A child’s death is always a tragedy, whether due to illness, a congenital condition or an accident. The law generally does not get involved in the first two types of cases, but certain types of accidents can lead to criminal charges against the child’s parents.
Increasingly, fatal drug overdoses among young children are leading to murder charges against American parents. Twenty states, including Texas, have introduced a charge called “drug-induced homicide” that can expose someone to manslaughter or murder charges if they supplied or exposed drugs to an overdose victim. Originally used against drug dealers primarily, prosecutors are increasingly using the drug-induced homicide law to hold parents responsible when one of their children accidentally overdoses on fentanyl or other potent drugs.
Fentanyl-related child deaths are becoming especially common grounds for homicide charges, both because of the fentanyl addiction epidemic plaguing the U.S., and because it is so powerful that an amount of fentanyl powder weighing as little as a mosquito can kill a child.
Is an accidental exposure murder?
Murder is a specific intent crime. To convict someone of murder, prosecutors generally must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to kill the deceased. But when a child accidentally swallows or gets exposed to drugs and dies as a result, their parent did not mean to cause that tragedy. It’s much more likely that their addiction caused them to make a terrible mistake like leaving whole or crushed-up pills out where their young child could reach them. This could be closer to manslaughter, which does not include intent as an element of the crime.
Help during the most difficult time of your life
Criminal charges that could put you in prison for life can only compound the grief you are feeling after the death of your child. Skilled criminal defense representation is essential against such high-level felony charges.