Is Giving Someone Drugs Tantamount to Attempted Murder?

One man’s overdose turned into another man’s arrest this month. Found in the bathroom at

Drug syringe and cooked heroin on spoon

One man’s overdose turned into another man’s arrest this month. Found in the bathroom at the Digital Media Center at Louisiana State University, a 25-year-old man was in the throes of heroin overdose. He was found nonresponsive by Media Center staff with a needle in his arm, and they called for emergency medical assistance. A dose of Narcan, an opiate overdose reversal drug, was used, and the man began breathing again.

However, surveillance footage showed another man leaving the bathroom, a man identified by Media Center staff who allegedly gave the overdose victim the drugs that almost caused his death and did nothing to assist him, including call for help, when he overdosed. When arrested by Louisiana State University Police, he was arrested on felony drug charges as well as attempted second-degree murder.

Did the man who left the overdose victim unassisted in the bathroom commit a crime?

Supplier of the Murder Weapon

Essentially, the legal view in Louisiana and many other states is that the person who supplied the individual with the drugs that ended – or almost ended – their life is essentially a murderer or attempted murderer. Though every situation is different, if someone dies as a result of a drug overdose and it can be proven that someone gave them the drugs, that person may be charged. There is precedent for charging someone with murder who gave someone one of their prescription pills – that is, not a drug dealer per se but someone who just gave a friend a pill – if that pill then caused an overdose or was the cause of any accidental death.

Drug traffickers, however, are not charged with murder unless they can be connected directly to an individual’s death, even though the sale of their wares more than likely contributed to the destruction, if not end, of lives of end users.

In this case, it is unclear what the relationship was between the two men – drug dealer or friends – but regardless of the circumstances of why he may have supplied the person with the drugs that almost took his life, far more important is the fact that he may have left knowing that the person was experiencing an overdose and did nothing.

Law of Protection?

In many states, there are laws of protection for those who witness a drug overdose and call for medical assistance on behalf of that individual. They cannot be prosecuted for drug-related charges, even if they too are under the influence or in possession of drug paraphernalia or illegal drugs.

However, in Louisiana, the law reads:

“A person acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose may not be charged, prosecuted, or penalized for possession of a controlled dangerous substance under the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law if the evidence for possession of a controlled dangerous substance was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance, unless the person illegally provided or administered a controlled dangerous substance to the individual.”

The last line of the law is key in this and many cases. It makes a clear distinction of who is protected and who isn’t. For example, at a party, if a few people are hanging out and one overdoses, other partygoers will be immune from prosecution if they call emergency medical professionals for assistance for their friend, even if they too are under the influence. However, if two people took pills from one of their prescriptions and the person who was not prescribed the drug overdoses, the one who gave them the pill will not be protected.

It is a significant issue that should be addressed. Though the intent is to ensure that drug dealers are not protected from the legal consequences of their crimes, there are a number of situations where individuals who may or may not be drug dealers may be forced to choose between their own sense of personal safety and the life of another, and especially if they too are under the influence, it puts the victim at significant risk.

Probable Cause?

According to the probable cause report, two men went into the bathroom and 10 minutes later the surveillance footage shows one leaving “in a frantic state.” When the victim was revived, he identified the man from the surveillance footage and reported that he had given him the heroin and that the two were using the drug together, each in his own stall. The report also stated that the door to the stall of the overdose victim was still locked when he was found, and that reporting officers believed this to be an indication that the man did nothing to help his overdosing friend.

What do you think? If the man had called 911, would he have had legal immunity? Do you think he might have stayed to help if the law were more inclusive? Is this a case of attempted murder?

Since joining the Townsend content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.