In 2022, more than 100,000 Americans died from an overdose of illegal narcotics. A major contributor to this grim statistic is fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is often distributed illegally and mixed with other drugs. In response to this growing epidemic, about 30 states across the country have enacted laws imposing criminal liability on people who supply the drug to others and cause death. As of September 1, 2023, Texas joined this national trend, recognizing a new crime known as fentanyl murder.
Under the new Texas law, anyone who distributes fentanyl, even socially, that results in a user’s death can face first-degree felony charges. The crime carries a minimum prison term of five years and a maximum of life in prison.
The new law further requires that if a death occurs after a person takes fentanyl, the death certificate must state fentanyl toxicity or fentanyl poisoning as a cause of death. The purpose of this reporting requirement is track fentanyl-related deaths and thereby to help authorities hold suppliers of the drug criminally liable.
The law also increases the criminal penalties for manufacturing or delivering fentanyl. Distributing even small amounts of the drug can lead to serious felony charges. The new penalty schedule for fentanyl production or distribution is as follows:
- Under 1 gram — 2 to 10 years in prison
- 4 to 200 grams — 10 years to life in prison, maximum fine of $20,000
- 201 to 400 grams — 10 years to life in prison, maximum fine of $100,000
- Over 400 grams — 15 years to life in prison, maximum fine of $250,000
The new and revised laws concerning fentanyl are non-exclusive. This means that a person suspected of fentanyl crimes may also be charged under other sections of the Texas Penal Code.
While the elements of the new law have not yet been fully tested in court, it is clear that the legislature wants people involved in supplying fentanyl to be treated harshly. Anyone accused of an opiate-related crime should immediately consult a qualified drug crimes lawyer.
Kevin L. Collins, P.C. in San Antonio is a full-service Texas criminal defense firm practicing throughout Bexar County. If you have been arrested on any type of drug charge, contact us online or call 210-598-8629 for a consultation.