Like all overdose deaths, the death of Prince was tragic and a surprise to many, made even more so by the fact that the pills that killed him were counterfeits, not the Vicodin he had been legally prescribed.
The final ruling was that Prince was found unresponsive in his Minnesota estate after an accidental overdose of fentanyl and because the investigators could find no evidence of how he obtained the counterfeit pills, or from whom, no charges will be filed in relation to his death. While the prosecutor was aware of the extraordinary nature of the case, as well as its involvement as a celebrity, he told reporters that he could not let that effect his decision and the evidence was not there to bring a case. “Prince’s death is a tragic example that opioid addiction, and overdose deaths do not discriminate no matter the demographic,” he said.
Prince had been long battling a significant amount of pain through recent years that he took pain medication for. Though he had no active prescription for either Vicodin or fentanyl, he had a number of prescription medications, many not in a prescription container.
After examining all of the evidence, and determining that the pills that killed Prince were not prescribed by a doctor, there was found to be no sinister motive or an intent to kill Prince with the counterfeit medication. It is likely that his addiction to pain medication was well hidden, in an attempt to protect his privacy and his career. The most tragic fact about the situation is that his body was found when an employee from a drug rehabilitation center in California arrived, responding to a call from a Prince representative that there was a grave medical emergency regarding prescription pain medication. Prince had already been seeking treatment from Dr. Micheal Schulenberg for opioid withdrawal along with fatigue and anemia.
While Schulenberg was not the subject of any kind of criminal investigation, he had been accused of illegally prescribing an opioid painkiller to Prince a week before he died. He was charged with a federal civil violation and has agreed to pay a $30,000 settlement.
Attorneys for the doctor stated that he settled the claim simply to avoid the time, expense, and uncertain outcome that litigating the case could have brought.
Those close to Prince are unhappy about the lack of charges and feel that someone should be held accountable.
Charges that someone could face if found responsible for an opioid death
With opioid addiction at an all-time high, and overdose rates continuing to soar, a number of states have implemented stricter laws regarding the penalties for those delivering illegal prescription drugs. If death results, many states will prefer charges ranging from manslaughter to murder. In Florida, it could result in a capital offense.
Other charges that the state may include are possession charges, felony distribution charges, or transportation of a controlled substance. Doctors are not immune to strict charges either. If found criminally responsible, they can lose their ability to practice, face civil suits and even be sentenced to jail.
Good Samaritan overdose immunity laws
While many states have begun to impose what are referred to as Good Samaritan overdose immunity laws, in Arizona, you can still be arrested if you are found in possession of a small amount of opioids if you call in to report an overdose. but the courts are still likely to consider the fact that you called for help and provide more favorable sentencing. Failing to call for help where the situation results in serious injury or death can lead to much more severe consequences.
If you have been charged with an opioid-related crime, it is vital to have the proper representation who is a way of the state’s drug policies, possible charges, and likely sentences that can be imposed, so that you can achieve the best possible outcome for your case.