What are the “rights” of the survivors that may help meet these needs?
West Virginia, unlike many states, does not include a constitutional provision providing rights to victims, but in the 1980’s passed a statute granting crime victims certain rights.
Virginia has passed a constitutional amendment granting crime victims certain rights including a potential reimbursement of expenses through the crime victim’s fund.
Maryland and DC also have very specific rights granted to crime victims. The DC provisions are statutory and include a specific DC Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. Maryland law includes a group of statutory rights for victims.
However, law enforcement officials may not charge distributors with a crime. Funds for out of pocket expenses may be still be obtained from the crime victim funds. Most crime victim laws provide the victim’s family an opportunity to both apply for funds even when there is no prosecution or conviction. Families may also meet with law enforcement or prosecuting attorneys to ask questions and determine why no formal charges were filed.
The following questions are those that many victims have asked me over the last several years.
What types of criminal charges are possible or have been filed?
In some situations, the drug dealer who provides an illegal drug that results in an overdose can be held criminally responsible. The charges range from the illegal distribution of the drug to voluntary manslaughter to second degree murder.
What if the drugs are prescribed by a physician?
Increasingly, physicians are held responsible by the courts, particularly civilly, for overprescribing pain medications. Recently CNN published a story summarizing those legal actions.
I’ve heard that my county sued the drug companies. Is that true?
In West Virginia, county councils have initiated litigation against both pharmaceutical companies seeking damages for the opioid crisis. These cases are similar to class actions and seek damages for what the crisis has caused to our communities.
Perhaps all of this court involvement may be confusing. These statutes and constitutional provisions, as well as the potential fo civil litigation may help you get some answers and try to Contact my office if you have questions about cases in West Virginia or DC. We have represented many victims, including the family members of drug overdose victims, in trying to find answers and get their bills paid. In most situations in West Virginia, you will not be required to pay any attorney fees unless there is a civil recovery. If you are in Virginia, contact your county Commonwealth Attorney's office to have your questions answered. If you are in Maryland, you may be eligible for a free lawyer.