Last week, Joshua Roberts, a 22-year-old man, was charged with first and second-degree murder in connection with the overdose death of 17-year-old Mia Gugino. Roberts is further charged with selling or transferring drugs.
While Ms. Gugino’s death from a combination of fentanyl, MDMA, and ethanol was initially ruled an accident by the coroner’s office, Metro police are now considering it a homicide, although it is still undetermined how Roberts was tied to the death or the motive. Ms. Gugino’s death is the second such overdose this year that has qualified as a homicide.
The Push to Prosecute
In 2020, we saw a disturbing increase in overdose deaths by about 30 percent throughout the country, with many blaming COVID-19 for the depression and isolation potentially leading to it. Because of this, prosecutors have been pressured to go after those who may have been involved in overdose deaths and level homicide charges. This is commonly referred to as drug-induced homicide.
According to the advocacy group Drug Induced Homicide.org, a drug toxicity death occurs every 7 minutes in America. Laws in several states now hold drug dealers, friends, or even family members criminally accountable for an individual’s fatal overdose. Nevada is one of those states.
Can Those Selling or Giving Drugs to Someone Else Be Charged With Murder if That Person Overdoses in Nevada?
In Nevada, accidental drug-related deaths can be prosecuted as homicides. NRS 453.333 is the law that says that an individual causing someone’s death by giving them drugs can be charged as a category A felony. It states that
“If the death of a person is proximately caused by a controlled substance which was sold, given, traded or otherwise made available to him or her by another person in violation of this chapter, the person who sold, gave or traded or otherwise made the substance available to him or her is guilty of murder.”
- First-degree murder can be punishable by life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole after 20 years, 50 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years, or even the death penalty in Nevada if the defendant has a prior trafficking conviction.
- Second-degree murder can be punishable by 25 years to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
These charges can impact an individual for the rest of their life.
Legal Defense in These Cases
While it is unclear how police tied Roberts to Ms. Gugino’s death or how he was involved, we know that he is facing some serious charges and extensive time in prison if convicted. Especially in states such as Nevada, it is critical for someone in his position to get the most skilled criminal defense representation possible.
In most cases, it will be incumbent on the legal defense team to prove one of two things 1.) the drugs were not the cause of death or 2.) the defendant was not a party to giving the deceased drugs.
We will watch this particular case to see how it transpires. In the meantime, these cases can set a precedent for others who may supply drugs to another person, a friend, or family member, or even if that person is merely present at the time of an overdose.
If you have been charged with a drug-based crime or any crime involving a controlled substance in Las Vegas, it is critical to get the most skilled legal representation possible.
Contact the criminal defense attorneys at LV Criminal Defense to understand your charges, consequences, and options.