The Texas Tribune reported that the Texas Senate unanimously approved a bill that would allow state prosecutor to indict fentanyl distributors for murder.
Senator Joan Huffman introduced the “Combating Fentanyl”, Senate Bill 645. If passed by the state legislature it would allow prosecutors to indict individuals who sell, deliver, or make fentanyl here in Texas as murder.
The legislation would also make fentanyl overdoses “poisonings” by elevating the penalty for making or distributing less than onegram of fentanyl, from a state prison felony to third-degree felonies. The penalty for fentanyl-related death would rise to a second degree felony.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency states that only two milligrams can cause death from opioids.
The agency shared the following tweet: “#DEA Lab Testing reveals that 6 out 10 fentanyl-laced Rx pills analyzed by 2022 now contain a potentially fatal dose of fentanyl.” A potential deadly dose is 2 mg of fentanyl. This is a tiny amount that can fit on a pencil tip.
Huffman said Wednesday that he had tragically learned how dangerous fentanyl can be and how much even a single gram of it is.
It is a fact that fentanyl has been flooding our borders. It is without doubt killing our citizens every day. It’s high time we adopt a comprehensive approach in combating this,” Huffman said.
Additionally, the bill would increase penalties for delivering, selling or making larger amounts of fentanyl. A person who has 200-400 grams of fentanyl would be charged with first-degree felonies and would spend between 10 and 15 years in prison. They would also receive a maximum $100,000 fine. Anybody weighing more than 400 grams will also be charged with first-degree felonies. They could spend up to 15 years prison and face a maximum fine of $250,000.
Fentanyl overdose deaths increased by nearly 400% in the fiscal year 2019. In 2019, there were 333, while there were 1,662 deaths from fentanyl overdoses in 2021. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that overdoses claimed the lives of 5,000 people between July 2021 and 2022.
The legislation provides exceptions for doctors who prescribe fentanyl to patients.
Even if the bill is approved by lawmakers, the prosecution must prove that the person selling or distribution of drugs knew that the narcotics contained fentanyl in order to accuse the individual of murder.
Huffman stated that it could be because they feel it’s easier for them to prosecute under another statute I passed that would make it second-degree felonies. “But it may be that there are exceptional cases, and then the prosecutor could have this tool for filing for first-degree felonies.”
In a tweet on Wednesday evening, Republican Governor Greg Abbott supported the Senate’s passage of the bill.
Abbott wrote, “Here we are!” You kill Texans using fentanyl. You are charged with murder. Senate approves bill that allows prosecutors to indict fentanyl distributors for murder.