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More than 1,200 Criminal Defense Lawyers Across the Country to be Trained to Defend Against Drug Overdose Homicide Charges

More than 1,200 criminal defense lawyers and legal experts from across the country are registered to participate in a 4-week training series to effectively defend clients who are being charged with drug overdose homicide. Despite a lack of evidence that these kinds of prosecutions curb drug use or overdose, prosecutors in many jurisdictions continue to charge individuals with homicide for sharing or supplying drugs when an accidental overdose death occurs. With hundreds of cases a year and prosecutions on the rise in many states, the training addresses an urgent need for effective representation of people targeted under these laws.  

Journalists are invited to attend and cover the following sessions: Substance Use Disorders and Advocacy in the Criminal Legal System from 1:05-2:05PM on January 28th; State Statutes Decoded from 2:15-2:45PM on January 28th. Journalists who wish to attend should contact Tony Newman at (646-335-5384) to complete a press agreement, which is required before attending or accessing any of the program materials.  

What4-week training series for criminal defense lawyers to educate and empower defenders to tackle these challenging and difficult cases. It will also include focused content on the law in the states of Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Click here to see full agenda. 

When: Runs weekly on Thursdays from January 28 – February 18, 2021 

Who: The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), in partnership with Vital Strategies, the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, Neighborhood Defender Services Detroit, New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania, and State Appellate Defender Office (Michigan) 

“NACDL is proud to again partner with Vital Strategies, this time to provide lawyers from across the nation with critical training on defending against drug overdose homicide charges,” said NACDL President Christopher W. Adams. “While ‘drug delivery resulting in death’ and similar criminal code provisions in various jurisdictions have no place in any rational approach to what should ultimately be a public health and not a criminal matter, so long as legislatures enact and prosecutors enforce such statutes, it is essential that the criminal defense bar be trained to provide the best possible defense against their application in individual cases. NACDL is committed to equipping criminal defense lawyers with the tools and skills they need to most effectively serve their clients.” 

The training will cover such topics as the flawed theories that underlie the criminalization of substance use, constitutional and evidentiary issues related to the digital data frequently utilized in the prosecution and defense of drug overdose cases, forensic toxicology, chemistry, and pathology, and trial strategies in drug overdose homicide cases. 

“In the face of growing recognition that we can’t punish our way out of the overdose crisis, drug overdose homicide stands as a failed war on drugs strategy that only serves to exacerbate the tragedy of a drug overdose” said Kate Boulton, Legal Technical Advisor at Vital Strategies. “Drug overdose homicide prosecutions are in direct conflict with Good Samaritan Laws, intended to encourage people to call for help, and instead divert energy and resources from other proven public health strategies to prevent fatal overdose. This training will help defense attorneys more effectively support clients targeted by these draconian laws and encourage a broader rethinking of this counterproductive response to overdose.”  

The training is supported by Vital Strategies, a global public health organization working to strengthen public health systems and address the world’s leading causes of illness, injury and death. Vital Strategies, Johns Hopkins University, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are part of $50M investment by Bloomberg Philanthropies to address the overdose epidemic in the United States.  

The training series follows a November 2019 convening in Pennsylvania, which is among the states with the highest number of such prosecutions in the country. 

Tony Newman