Ocean County, NJ Drug Dealers Liable for User’s “Wrongful Death”

If a drug dealer sells to a user, and that user subsequently dies from an overdose on the drugs they bought, is the dealer liable for the death? The answer to this question, at least in Ocean County, NJ, is “yes.”

It was reported by the NY Daily News on Nov. 19, 2013 that Kenneth Staunton pled guilty to manslaughter charges, stemming from the heroin overdose and subsequent death of Lacey Township, NJ’s Raymond Farino last January. Farino purchased heroin from Staunton and, because of the little used strict liability law, Staunton was held responsible for the Farino’s death and now faces eight years in prison.

Staunton’s case marked the third time this year where an Ocean County, NJ drug dealer was charged under the strict liability law, where users have died using their products.

In late September, Monmouth County, NJ authorities announced there was a heroin epidemic in the county. After 76 deaths in 2011 due to heroin overdoses and 70 last year, there have been more than 37 heroin overdoses this year in Monmouth County so far, according to the authorities.

In years past, overdoses were looked at as accidental deaths, generally pinned on the drug user, not the drug dealer. However, because of a rising epidemic of heroin use and overdoses throughout the state and country, law enforcement officials have changed the way they prosecute these types of deaths. If you are facing prosecution stemming from drug sales and/or distribution in Ocean and Monmouth counties, contact the experienced attorneys at Goldstein Law Group to learn your rights.

Drug dealers now have new issues to worry about, especially when dealing drugs with a potential for overdosing, like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. Now it’s not just a matter of getting caught in the act of selling, or with possession with intent to distribute. Dealers can believe they’ve gotten away clean and free, and a future overdose can come back to bite them. In this case, Staunton had special markings on the drug packaging, which was linked back to him.

If you are facing drug charges in Ocean County or elsewhere in New Jersey, call us at (732) 820-5542 or email us here.

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