In April of 2010, Iowa police found evidence of 7 different drugs in the home of Joshua Banka, who had just died of an overdose.  Banka had allegedly stolen oxycodone from his roommate and mixed it with heroine he purchased from a man named Marcus Burrage.

An Iowa federal court found Burrage guilty of trafficking, but the question as to whether Burrage was liable for Banka’s death was still to be answered.  When “death of serious bodily injury results from the use of” the substance distributed, Federal law requires a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for the dealer.

When the case went to trial the toxicologist and medical examiner both testified that there was a mix of drugs that caused the fatal overdose.  However neither was willing to commit to saying that the heroin (which Burrage had supplied) was the cause of death.

Burrage’s defense team argued that since it could not be proven that Banka’s death was caused by heroin, Burrage should be acquitted. Still the judge determined Burrage was guilty and gave him the minimum 20-years in prison. However, earlier this year appeals reached Supreme Court and the Justices unanimously reversed the ruling.

In most federal cases, convicted drug traffickers are sentenced to less than seven years in prison.  If the courts find the trafficker caused “death or serious bodily injury” as the result of their distribution the minimum 20 year sentence applies. The impact of the Burrage case it that this is now much more difficult to prove cause, since most overdoses are the result of multiple drugs obtained from multiple sources (as in Banka’s case).

If you’ve been charged with possession with intent to sell or intent to distribute, you need to ensure that your rights are fully protected. The Nahajski Firm has earned a reputation throughout the legal community for providing an aggressive and effective criminal defense against various drug charges. We believe that opportunities exist in every case to improve our clients’ situations, and our dedicated lawyers will actively seek out those opportunities.

Call us at 206-621-0500 or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced Seattle area defense lawyer.