Prosecuting Drug Dealers For Murder

Over 100 American's die every day from drug overdoses, now dealers may be punished for more than selling drugs.
3:00 | 02/19/14

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Transcript for Prosecuting Drug Dealers For Murder
And next here tonight, this past year, we've been seeing an epidemic of dug traj ghi America, leaving ordinary families and families of the famous asking, what can be done? So, tonight, we take a closer look at a growing question -- what would happen if dealers were charged with murder, if there's a death from their drugs? Here's ABC's Ryan smith. Reporter: After the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, police, acting on a tip, arrested this man. He's been charged with heroin possession, but not in connection with Hoffman's death. He's pled not guilty. In fact, we may never know who supplied the drugs that killed the oscar-winning actor. Police say they're not investigating anymore, because no crime was committed. But with heroin use and overdoses skyrocketing in so many parts of the country, many are trying to find ways to hold those who provide drugs accountable. One law on the books in 17 states, the o'connor law, who lost his son to suicide, related to drug use, told Diane sawyer he demanded accountability from the man he said supplied him with the drugs. You sleaze ball, you. We're going to get you. Reporter: O'connor lobbied the California legislature to pass the drug dealer civil liability ability. Allows families to sue for reimbursement. You know, I've actually heard people say, you can't blame the dealer -- for what we choose to do to ourselves. They may be an accessory in some way, but you can't blame them. He's a partner in murder. Not an accessory. A partner. In murder. Reporter: And some prosecutors are now calling it a crime. Like John mull nel Li of Bergen county, New Jersey. It eelgs not just dealer, it's supplier. It could be a manufacturer. Everyone up the chain could be charged with first degree drug induced death here in new Jersey. Rrl he's using a statute that could land dealers in jail for 30 years. Prosecutors around the country trying to find creative ways to show drug deal earls they mean business. Ryan smith, ABC news, New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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