April 13, 2023- Texas Senate has recently passed Senate Bill 645 that would redefine fentanyl poisoning as murder for purposes of prosecution and death certificates.
Over the past two years, the Texas Department of Public Safety had seized over 353 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill almost every person in the United States.
The author of the Bill Sen. Joan Huffman, attached a floor amendment to SB 645 defining the manufacturing or delivering of fentanyl as murder if someone dies from an overdose. In addition, the Bill makes possession of fentanyl with the intention of delivering prosecutable under the statute governing organized crime. Huffman stated she’d added that language at the request of prosecutors.
Huffman’s Bill would also tighten penalties for making, delivering or possessing larger quantities of fentanyl. Having between 200 and 400 grams would be considered a first-degree felony, which could lead to between 10 years and life in prison as well as a fine of up to $100,000. Having more than 400 grams would also be a first-degree felony punishable by at least 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Huffman’s Bill does have a exception however for medical professionals who prescribe fentanyl as treatment. She also changed the law so that death certificates do not classify as “fentanyl poisonings” deaths in which fentanyl is detected in the body but there is another clear cause of death.
The bill would allow emergency responders to share the date and time of the overdose incident, the approximate location of the incident, whether an opioid antagonist like naloxone was administered and the outcome of the patient. It does not allow for the sharing of the victim’s personal information.
The Senate suspended its normal rules to speed SB 645 through both its second and third readings on the same day. The bill passed 30-0 and now moves to the House.