What happened, and how does Florida law define murder charges for people who provide drugs that turn out to be lethal?
A Fentanyl Overdose Leads to Death
In May 2022, a mother and daughter (whose names have not been released) were driving around Hudson and New Port Richey, Florida with the daughter’s boyfriend, Robert Michelmore. The mother drove the couple to a few locations, including Best Buy.
After their errands, the mother dropped Michelmore off at his home before returning home with her daughter. At that time, the daughter said she was going to watch a movie. Two hours later, the mother went to check on her daughter and found her unresponsive. She called 911, but it was too late. Her daughter had died from a combination of drugs which included fentanyl.
The daughter’s phone was nearby. She had a message from Michelmore that said, “I tried calling you and you wouldn’t answer the phone, how is it?”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Michelmore later admitted that he put fentanyl in the daughter’s purse while they were at Best Buy. Michelmore had purchased fentanyl the day before, and records show he sent the woman a text at that time saying, “I got some fetty.”
Michelmore later said he warned the woman that the substance was strong and he reportedly told her to only take “a little bit” because he “didn’t want her to die.”
But the woman died, and now, Michelmore is facing the consequences.
Facing First-Degree Murder Charges
In December 2022, Michelmore was arrested and indicted on a charge of “death caused by the unlawful distribution of fentanyl,” according to Pasco County court records.
Florida has a drug-induced homicide law which states that any person supplying drugs to another person can be charged with homicide if the person dies after using the substance. The law is defined under Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a)(3).
It is a first-degree murder charge, which carries the same potential consequences as premeditated murder or a homicide caused while committing a felony. It is the most serious charge of all homicides and is considered a Capital Offense.
Potential Consequences of First-Degree Murder
In Florida, a conviction of first-degree murder can be punishable by life in prison with no parole. It can also carry the consequence of the death penalty.
It is not very common for prosecutors to seek the death penalty for first-degree murder cases, and it is unlikely Michelmore will face the death penalty. But, the harsh potential consequence shows the severity of the crime committed.
Other Substances Can Lead to First-Degree Murder Charges
Fentanyl is just one type of illegal substance that can lead to a first-degree murder charge if an individual provides it to someone who uses it and dies. According to Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a)(3), the same rules apply to the distribution of:
- Opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium
This list is not exhaustive. The statute also includes, “A controlled substance analog, as described in Florida Statute 893.0356, of any substance specified in sub-subparagraphs a.-i.” The statute includes a long list of other substances that could lead to a first-degree murder charge if their distribution leads to a death.
Michelmore is being held without bail at the Pinellas County jail.
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