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Tipsheet

New Texas Law Allows Fentanyl Deaths to Be Prosecuted As Murder

Twitter/Port Director Michael W. Humphries

On Wednesday, GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that would allow for people who manufacture or distribute fentanyl illegally to be prosecuted for murder.

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Abbott signed several bills into law meant to combat the nation’s opioid crisis.

“This is the best path forward to achieve a goal,” Abbott said of the legislation when it was signed. “Our collective goal is to reduce people dying from fentanyl.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, several students have died or been hospitalized in suspected fentanyl poisonings. And, reportedly, some students have overdosed on the substance on school grounds after taking fentanyl-laced pills. 

The legislation signed into law this week would make October a “fentanyl poisoning awareness month,” where schools will be required to provide students with information about fentanyl abuse prevention. In addition, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission will partner with colleges and universities to provide Narcan on campuses.

And, Abbott clarified that the legislation will allow those who illegally manufacture or deliver fentanyl to be prosecuted for murder if it causes death (via the Austin-American-Statesman):

Anyone charged with manufacturing, delivering or possessing between 200 to 400 grams of fentanyl with intent to deliver faces a first-degree felony, which comes with a minimum 10-year sentence and up to life in prison and a fine not to exceed $100,000. For anyone caught with more than 400 grams, they could face a 15-year minimum jail term and a fine up to $250,000.

Manufacturing or delivering fentanyl that results in an overdose is classified a second-degree felony.

The penalty for manufacturing or delivering less than 1 gram of fentanyl would increase from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony.

"This law makes clear that any person who causes a death by unlawfully manufacturing or delivering fentanyl can be prosecuted for murder in the state of Texas," Abbott said.

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“These pivotal measures will help save lives, prosecute fentanyl deaths as murder, distribute NARCAN on college campuses, & continue efforts to educate young Texans about the dangers of fentanyl,” Abbott added, on Twitter.

“These four laws will forever change Texas through new protections that will help save lives. In 2022, more than 2,000 people died from fentanyl in Texas—or more than five a day. It is the No. 1 killer of Americans ages 18-45,” Abbott said in a press release.

Republican Rep. Craig Goldman, who authored H.B. 6, the bill that allows prosecutors to seek a murder charge for those who illegally manufacture or distribute fentanyl, said that it sends a “strong message” that “if you are caught and convicted you will be going away for a very long time.”

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According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is involved in more deaths of Americans under 50 than any cause of death, including cancer, homicide and suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that over 100,000 people in the country died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in a 12-month period ending in January 2022. Sixty-seven percent of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl. 

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