Rules for Establishing Causation in Opiate/Opioid Overdose Prosecutions — The Burrage Decision
Thomas P. Gilson, Carole Rendon, Joseph Pinjuh
ABSTRACT: As the opiate/opioid crisis has worsened in the United States, one of the law enforcement responses has involved increased efforts to prosecute the individuals responsible for the distribution of illicit drugs that result in overdoses. When mixed intoxications occur, the controlling decision for prosecution is Burrage v. United States (2014), which provides guidance on the types of evidence required for establishment of causation. In many types of legal proceedings, forensic pathologists are called to provide expert testimony, although they may be unaware of the burden of proof that is required in a given case. This paper seeks to elaborate upon the burden of proof in drug overdose prosecutions with the guidance of Burrage and offer insight into the expectations and limitations involved in these cases.