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North Carolina Criminal Law 14-17: Second Degree Murder, Caused by Controlled Substance

1. Definitions and Elements of the Crime

Murder charges Murder charges are among the most serious criminal offenses in North Carolina, often mandating active prison terms pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines. Murder is traditionally a Common Law Offense.

Second Degree Murder is a statutorily created offense, as referenced in the North Carolina Criminal Law 14-17, acknowledging aspects of traditional Common Law Murder.

In order the prove the Defendant is guilty of Second-Degree Murder, Caused by a Controlled Substance, the State must prove each and every element of the offense Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

The essential elements are:

  1. Death of the victim was caused by ingesting a Controlled Substance
  2. “Controlled Substance” includes opioid, opiate, or any opium
  3. “Controlled Substance” includes cocaine
  4. “Controlled Substance” includes methamphetamine
  5. “Controlled Substance” includes derivatives of barbituric acid in any quantity
  6. “Controlled Substance” includes depressants (N.C.G.S. 90-92(a)(1))
  7. The Defendant unlawfully and intentionally distributed the Controlled Substance
  8. The victim’s death was A Proximate Cause of the unlawful distribution of a Controlled Substance
  9. That Defendant acted with Malice, killing the victim
  10. The Defendant acted unlawfully

Second Degree Murder Caused by Controlled Substance is defined in the Pattern Jury Instruction 206.31B.

“A Proximate Cause” is a term of art and differs substantially from the civil standard, “The Proximate Cause.” A Proximate Cause is a real cause, without which the death of victim would not have occurred.

Foreseeability is factor, where a prudent and reasonably careful person could foresee:

  1. Damage
  2. Such Injury (the resulting injury)
  3. Some other, similar resulting injury

“A Proximate Cause” does not mean “sole proximate cause” or “the only proximate cause.” The Act causing injury, damage, or other similar injury is not required to be the nearest cause, the last cause, or the only cause.

The Act committed may have, in combination with other factors and working together at the same time, caused the victim’s death.

Second Degree Murder Caused by Controlled Substance is a specific intent crime, thus requiring Malice.

Malice is an essential element of Murder charges in North Carolina. Malice may be inferred when an Act is inherently dangerous to the life of humans.

The Act committed, thereby evidencing malice necessary for murder charges, is so reckless and wanton, it exposes an evil mind (men rea), utterly without regard for human life, social duties, and bent towards deliberate mischief.

Absence of Malice precludes prosecution for Murder. Without malice, Manslaughter is the proper criminal offense.

2. Related Offenses

Related or similar offenses include:

  1. Voluntary Manslaughter
  2. Involuntary Manslaughter
  3. Sale or Delivery of Controlled Substance
3. Examples

A particularly potent batch of Fentanyl hits the streets, resulting in several near-fatal overdoses. The demand for the “hot dose” Fentanyl peaks as more and more users begin to overdose.

Woman user purchases such Fentanyl, taking a small amount of the drug, and immediately overdoses. Woman’s boyfriend demands she give him the remaining Fentanyl. Woman warns her boyfriend, “Don’t take all this at once, especially if you’re drinking or doing anything else. I almost died. It’s really strong. Be careful.”

Boyfriend consumes alcohol to such an extent that his Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is 0.08. He also takes 4 “bars” of the benzodiazepine Xanax and thereafter “shoots up” the Fentanyl. He dies almost immediately from “poly-substance overdose” as cited as the cause of death by the Medical Examiner.

Woman may be charged with Murder, where the Finder of Fact would be charged with the duty to determine whether the element of malice exists. Given the warning to her boyfriend, and with the absence of malice, Involuntary Manslaughter could also be charged.

4. Defenses to Second Degree Murder by Controlled Substance

Second Degree Murder Caused by Controlled Substance Second Degree Murder Caused by ntrolled Murder Caused by Controlled Substance is one of the more complicated types of homicide charge in North Carolina. The State must prove “malice” as an essential element to the offense.

Providing a known, dangerous drug to someone who is well-aware of its risks likely does not evidence an mens rea (evil mind) to such extent that it shows utter disregard of human life.

Common Law offenses are subject to Common Law Defenses such as Mistake of Fact, Duress, Mental Disorder (Insanity).

5. Penalties

Murder is always a felony charge in North Carolina. Second-Degree Murder differs from First-Degree Murder in that there is no premeditation, deliberation, and/or lying in wait.

Second Degree Murder Caused by Controlled Substance under North Carolina Criminal Law 14-17 is classified as a Class B2 felony offense. The maximum period of incarceration for a Prior Record Level VI offense level, in the aggravated range, exceeds more than 30 years in prison.

Sentencing guidelines for upper-level felony charges in North Carolina is notoriously complex and requires careful consideration of factors in aggravation, mitigation and prior record level (PRL). Seek legal counsel immediately to determine the maximum period of incarceration that may be applicable.

6. Criminal Defense for Second Degree Murder Charges

Murder Charges Second-Degree murder is an extremely serious criminal offense that carries a mandatory active prison term in the NC Department of Adult Corrections, if convicted.

As such, it’s imperative you speak with an experienced Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney without delay. If you have been charged, politely refuse to answer questions or provide a statement. Ask to speak with legal counsel immediately, exercising your Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent.

Bill Powers is a defense attorney with substantial courtroom experience helping clients with murder and manslaughter charges in North Carolina. Bill Powers and the defense attorneys at our law firm travel extensively throughout North Carolina, helping clients with serious felony charges, including Felony Death by Vehicle, Manslaughter, and Murder charges.

For more information about murder charges, homicide, and/or manslaughter, call Bill Powers now to schedule your free consultation. Call Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyer Bill Powers at the Powers Law Firm PA: 877-462-3841

You may also reach Mr. Powers directly by email at: Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com

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