Supreme Court Tosses Out Drug Conviction Based on User's Overdose Death

Unanimous ruling that dealer can't be held accountable if drug is a 'contributing' factor, not entirely main reason


If a drug user dies or is seriously injured after taking in multiple substances, a dealer who supplied one of the items can get an enhanced sentence only if that one drug was the actual cause of the death or injury, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday.

The decision in Burrage v. United States flatly rejected a federal government argument — based on the notion that addicts often use more than one substance — that it would be enough if that one drug played a role in the result, even though it did not itself cause that outcome.