11 Whittier L. Rev. 243 (1989-1990)
Applying the Felony Murder Rule to Drug Distributors: Speculations and Implications

handle is hein.journals/whitlr11 and id is 255 raw text is: APPLYING THE FELONY MURDER
RULE TO DRUG DISTRIBUTORS:
SPECULATIONS AND
IMPLICATIONS
JOHN P. HOFFMANN*
Jessica, a young heroin addict, felt the initial pains of withdrawal
deep in her abdomen. She knew that if she did not find some heroin
soon, the pain in her stomach and chest would become severe. Luck-
ily, a street dealer was nearby. Jessica purchased enough heroin from
the dealer to satisfy her cravings for at least the next day. She pre-
pared her normal dose and plunged the needle containing the heroin
mixture into her arm. Later that same day Jessica was found dead, the
victim of an unexpected overdose of heroin.
Based on the increasingly severe drug scare in the United States,
one would assume that the above scenario has been occurring with
greater frequency in recent years. In fact, the number of deaths attrib-
uted to illegal drugs increased from 3,040 in 1978 to 4,678 in 1987.'
Although the number of high school students using drugs has
* Academic Advisor and Doctoral Student, School of Criminal Justice, The State Univer-
sity of New York at Albany. M.S. in Justice, American University, Washington, D.C. B.S. in
Political Science, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va. Research interests include: the
use of asset forfeiture to prosecute illegal drug cases; international drug trafficking; the historical
development of drug laws; and the impact of drug use and drug laws on society. I am thoroughly
indebted to Professor James Acker for his comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this
article.
1. National Institute of Drug Abuse, Project DAWN (1978); and National Institute of Drug
Abuse, Drug Abuse Warning Network-Semi-Annual Report 1987 (1988). The Drug Abuse
Warning Network (DAWN) is a compilation of drug overdose emergency room episodes from
twenty-seven of the largest cities in the United States. DAWN is therefore not a comprehensive
list of drug fatalities. It is not a random sample of overdose incidents, but it is the only nation-
wide data base on drug overdose deaths. In addition, it is not a precise indicator of deaths caused
by specific illegal drugs since, in many instances, overdose deaths are caused by a combination of
drugs. DAWN also does not distinguish between intentional and unintentional overdoses.

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