Is selling heroin a violent crime? Prosecutors in the St. Louis area would say yes if someone dies of a heroin overdose. In fact, as part of a law enforcement initiative adopted in St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Lincoln counties, police have begun investigating drug overdose deaths as homicides.

To illustrate: a Franklin County prosecutor recently said that he might charge three young people with murder in connection with the overdose death of a young woman in August. The accused, two 20-year-olds and a 19-year-old, have already been charged with felony drug distribution.

The epidemic of heroin and prescription drug addiction in Missouri and throughout the country has been well documented. Perhaps more now than ever before, law enforcement is motivated to stop heroin trafficking and prevent overdose deaths. City and county authorities are working together with the U.S. attorney’s office and the DEA to investigate fatal overdoses as homicides.

An unfortunate reality of this approach to law enforcement is that people who might have traded in heroin but never imagined hurting anyone find themselves charged with murder. A drug distribution charge is bad enough, but a homicide charge is far worse.

With the stakes this high, anyone accused of a heroin-related or prescription drug-related crime should seek the best available defense. Overcharging does occur, and police and prosecutors do make mistakes. An experienced criminal defense attorney can fight to protect your rights and future by investigating and scrutinizing your case for flaws on the part of law enforcement.