Fentanyl has quickly become one of the most dangerous opioids in America. Considered 50 times more potent than heroin, black market distributors often mix fentanyl with other illegal drugs for its euphoric effects. But even in small doses, fentanyl is an incredibly fatal substance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that fentanyl and other synthetic opioids cause more than 150 deaths daily in the U.S.
Several states have taken more aggressive stances in response to the opioid crisis. In Texas, legislators passed House Bill 6 (HB 6), which would classify fentanyl overdoses as poisonings. The bill also increases criminal penalties, so those who give fatal fentanyl doses could face a murder charge.
The bill was passed by the Senate and the House last week and was sent to Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
How does this bill affect those caught in possession of fentanyl-laced drugs?
With the bill still awaiting final approval, there are no changes for those currently charged with having a drug containing fentanyl. Possession is either a class A or B misdemeanor, depending on the type of drug. The amount of the illegal drug could also land the individual a felony charge, from a third-degree to a first-degree charge. Those with the highest felony degree for drug possession face life or up to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Once HB 6 passes into law, those who give fatal doses of a drug mixed with fentanyl could face murder charges. Prosecutors may charge them with criminally negligent homicide, considered a state jail felony. Those types of crimes carry a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to $10,000.
While HB 6 isn’t a state law, drug possession remains a serious crime with severe punishment. If you are charged with possessing drugs – including those potentially mixed with fentanyl – consider hiring a lawyer experienced in drug laws. A lawyer would be able to protect your rights in court and explore defense strategies to help you avoid the harsher penalties that come with a drug possession conviction.