If Person A manufactured a poison, and it was given to somebody else by Person B, without Person A's knowledge, what could Person A be charged with?

I am writing a novel for NaNoWriMo and I have set up this situation as a driving force for the mystery. I am just unsure what crime the police could charge Person A with (if not murder, which they suspect he committed).

My first instinct was involuntary manslaughter, but it doesn't seem to fit correctly, and I am unsure how to proceed, as my background is not in law.

1 Answer 1


Normally, making a poison is not in and of itself a crime. If a third party took the poison from the person who manufactured it without their knowledge, the manufacturer would generally not have criminal liability, at least in the absence of "gross criminal negligence" such as leaving the poison manufacturing location totally unsecured and letting people know that there was poison there for the taking.

In a civil case, someone might sue the poison manufacturer for negligently securing their facility, but again, that would be a real stretch if even ordinary precautions (e.g. standard locks on doors and cabinets) were in place, or if it was an inside job theft.

In the same way, a gun store owner is not usually liable criminally or civilly if someone steals a gun from his store and shoots someone with it.

The police could certainly charge Person A with capital murder mistakenly believing him to have intended to kill and did kill someone with the poison, which would make the critical factual point establishing that Person B gave it to someone without Person A's knowledge.

Person A might still be guilty of attempted murder if he intended to kill someone (not necessarily the person who was killed) with the poison but had not fully carried out the plot when the poison was stolen.

Some places probably require a permit of some kind to make poisons, and if Person A didn't have a permit, he could probably also be charged with making poisons without a permit.

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    @AuditionMD In those facts there might be civil liability for failure to take reasonable care to clearly label a poison that someone else might mistake for a drug, but that probably wouldn't amount to criminal negligence. In that case, there might be no crime committed at all. The fact that someone dies from a poison does not always mean that there is a crime.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 17:09
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    @ohwilleke If you try to drug someone without their knowledge or consent, that'd normally be a crime even if they don't die.
    – cpast
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 17:21
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    @cpast If you are giving someone medical drugs with the intent to make them healthier, and the person who takes the drugs does so willingly, thinking that they are medicinal (which seems to be the scenario here), the only offense would be providing drugs without a prescription and if the person thought that they were not controlled substances, that would be a pretty minor offense indeed, possibly even only a civil fine.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 18:29
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    @AuditionMD "In the case of Person B, then, he couldn't have possibly known it would result in death, would that then be at the very least involuntary manslaughter?" Almost surely not. Involuntary manslaughter still requires some criminal culpability.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 18:31
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    @ohwilleke I understood “person B drugged the victim” to mean person B thought it was something like roofies, not that person B was trying to give the victim medicine to make them healthier.
    – cpast
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 18:36

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