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Drug Delivery Resulting in Death Charges Possible in State College Balcony Fall Case?

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A Penn State University Park student recently fell from the balcony of his Penn Towers apartment in downtown State College, and the student died as a result of his injuries sustained from the fall. According to newspaper reports, the State College police entered the apartment after the fatal fall, and the police found that occupants of the apartment appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Some of the occupants were transported to the Mount Nittany Medical Center for medical supervision and treatment. According to online reports, the autopsy  evidenced that the man had drugs in his system, and the drugs were believed to be a psychedelic, like LSD or some new synthetic version thereof.

State College Drug Delivery Resulting in Death

If drugs were involved, they clearly were given to the Penn State students from someone. Everyone knows that selling drugs is a crime, but many people are not aware that simply giving drugs to another person is a felony offense of Delivery of a Controlled Substance, in violation of 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30). Obviously, a conviction of a felony offense would carry a severe punishment from the court, and the severity of the sentence is impacted by the type of drug that was distributed. The law treats the delivery of heroin much more severely than the delivery of marijuana. For example, possession with intent to deliver marijuana has a maximum sentence of 5 years incarceration and a $15,000.00 fine, but the distribution of heroin has a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail and a $250,000.00 fine.

Aside from the delivery charge, I also expect that the Centre County District Attorney would pursue prosecution of a charge of Drug Delivery Resulting in Death, in violation of 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2506. This charge is also a felony and carries a maximum sentence of 40 years incarceration. In the past, the Drug Delivery Resulting in Death charge carried a mandatory minimum sentence, but the Pennsylvania legislature amended the law and eliminated the mandatory minimum sentence.

Cooperation in State College Drug Cases

The next issue is whether or not the police investigation will uncover who provided the drugs to the Penn State students. Many people believe that they must submit to police questioning or a police interview, but Pennsylvania law does not require that a person answer police questions. The police do have the right to detain a person if they have reasonable suspicion to believe that the person was engaged in criminal activity, but the person that is detained need not answer police questions.

The apartment occupants that took the drugs may refuse to participate in the police investigation and answer questions because doing so would require them to admit to having possessed and ingested the drugs. If the police found drugs or related paraphernalia in the apartment, then the police could file Possession of a Controlled Substance charge under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(16) or Possession of Drug Paraphernalia under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(32). The State College Police or the Centre County District Attorney's Office may promise to resolve such charges in a more favorable manner in exchange for cooperation. Many Penn State drug cases involve the testimony of cooperating witnesses. We shall see what happens as the investigation continues.

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