Houman Fakhimi

Accused California Drug Dealer to Face Murder Charges for Overdose

There is no question that those caught trafficking in controlled substances in California are going to face serious charges, some of which could result in hard time.

But murder?

San Bernardino Criminal Defense Attorney Houman Fakhimi has learned that the Orange County Sheriff's Office has arrested a suspected drug dealer following an extensive investigation into the recent death of a woman who reportedly overdosed at a hotel in Lake Forest.

Detectives say they believe the accused supplied the young woman the drugs that ultimately killed her.

This kind of case is rare, but it's not unheard of and it may in fact become more common. It's the same kind of logic used to arrest a Rowland Heights physician on charges of murder, following the overdose of three of her patients on powerful prescription painkillers.

More often than not, if a doctor is to be charged in connection with a patient overdose, it's usually with a lesser charge of criminal homicide or involuntary manslaughter. That latter charge was the same one lodged against Dr. Conrad Murray, singer Michael Jackson's doctor, who was ultimately convicted.

Yet, prosecutors may have an even tougher time in prosecutions of accused drug dealers. For one thing, tracing the drugs back to a single source can be a challenge. If there is more than one source, can they all be charged with murder, even without ever having contact with the alleged victim - or even knowledge of his or her existence?

It opens a pandora's box of legal questions and there are no easy answers.

In this case, the 35-year-old suspect is charged with murder after reportedly selling heroin to a 21-year-old woman who later died from its use. Sheriff's department officials said that while it can be a "difficult" charge to prove against a drug dealer, murder was the "appropriate" charge in this case, following a more than one-year investigation.

It probably helps them to an extent that he has multiple, prior drug convictions, including for sale or transport of illegal drugs and possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Still, similar cases in Orange County couldn't be named by veteran law enforcement officials.

But such cases have historically been successful, at least to some degree. Take the 1982 case out of Los Angeles in which a woman was charged with first-degree murder after reportedly admitting to a tabloid that she had sold comedian John Belushi the heroin and cocaine upon which he later overdosed. In that case, the woman ended up pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

A more recent case out of Los Angeles in 2007 stemmed from the 2004 death of a 30-year-old woman who had overdosed on cocaine. The suspect had been naked and suicidal, threatening to jump off a high-rise building, told the officer there to talk him down that he had given the woman cocaine and that he had done so because he knew she would die and that he wanted her to die. His defense attorneys would later say it was a false confession, given in a haze of drugs and guilt. In the end, he received a sentence of life in prison.

In these cases, intent is key. That's why it's important if you are arrested for any drug-related case, you must not speak to investigators outside the presence of your attorney. You don't want to give them anything that will allow them to twist your words and later convict you of something much more serious.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are arrested in San Bernardino.