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A recent client from Minneapolis, B.H., was facing a lengthy prison sentence after she was charged with contributing to the death of a young man who overdosed on drugs he bought from our client.  B.H. was charged Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs, 3rd Degree Murder, and Second Degree Manslaughter after it was discovered she had a role in J.C.’s death.  The charges were all serious felony offenses and carried several years in prison.


The evidence of this case showed the J.C. had known B.H. from prior mutual contacts.  In October of 2014, J.C. traveled to B.H.’s home in Minneapolis.  J.C. knew that B.H.’s partner was sick with cancer and had a prescription for Fentanyl to help with the pain.  J.C. offered to purchase some of the unused Fentanyl patches from B.H.  B.H. agreed, mostly because she and her partner needed the extra money.  B.H. did not know that J.C. had serious addiction problems and a history of previous suicidal overdose attempts.  J.C. purchased the Fentanyl in Minneapolis and returned to his home in rural Minnesota.  He was found dead a couple days later.  J.C. overdosed on the fentanyl he obtained from our client.


A prominent Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer asked us to co-counsel B.H.’s case.  We have experience arguing the types of motions that are needed to help keep a client facing prison from spending several years behind bars.  After internal discussions with co-counsel, we agreed that the best course of action would be to approach the prosecuting attorney with an early proposed resolution.  We hoped that the time and work the prosecutor might avoid with an early resolution would help us get a favorable starting point for our client.  It worked.

The prosecutor ultimately agreed to dismiss the 3rd Degree Murder charge and the 2nd Degree Manslaughter charge.  Part of the reason behind the dismissals was the early proposed resolution, but we also hinted at our defense – and we think the prosecutor recognized the legitimacy of the defense.

To convicted B.H. of the 3rd Degree Murder charge, the prosecutor would have to prove that her actions of selling the Fentanyl to J.C. was the proximate cause of J.C.’s death.  Proximate cause is a legal term that essentially means the primary cause of the resulting harm or injury.  It was our position that B.H. did not have any knowledge that J.C. was going to use the Fentanyl in the manner he did.  J.C. smoked several of the patches and was found with additional patches inside his mouth.  With his history of suicide attempts, it was clear that J.C. was battling his own very serious personal demons.  If the case proceeded to trial, we intended to argue that J.C.’s own actions were as much a part of the result as B.H.’s.  I think the prosecutor recognized it might have been tough to prove that B.H.’s actions were the primary cause of death.  As a result, we struck a deal that called for B.H. to plead guilty to Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs.


A conviction of Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs carries a sentence of several years in prison.  The offense is known as a “presumptive commit.”  A criminal offense that is a presumptive commit is one where it is presumed that the offender will go to prison if convicted.  The only way to avoid prison is to convince the judge that your client does not deserve to go to prison (for a number of different reasons and/or circumstances) and the goals of sentencing will be better served by placing the person on probation.

The other Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer and filed several motions to keep our client out of prison.  After a lengthy and emotional sentencing hearing, the judge granted our motions.  He agreed that the circumstances of the case, as well as B.H.’s clean criminal record and her ability to succeed on probation, warranted placing her on probation instead of sending her to prison.  B.H. was sentenced to 10 years of probation, ordered to serve 120 days in the county jail, and pay a $50 fine.

While some people may take issue what they might perceive to be the lenient sentence, it really was the right outcome.  B.H. is not a drug dealer by any stretch of the definition.  She did not need to go to prison to appreciate her mistake or to be punished for her actions.

Minnesota criminal offenses carrying a presumptive commit to prison require the knowledge and creativity of an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer.  Our defense attorneys have successfully helped a number of deserving clients avoid prison and atone for their mistakes on probation.  Call us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense attorney.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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