The opioid epidemic which began in the 1990s continues to grip the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the crisis is now in its third wave, which began in 2013 and is characterized by an increase in overdose deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The CDC’s statistics show a more than 22 percent increase in the number of overdose deaths caused by synthetic opioids between 199 and 2021.

States have attempted numerous measures to stem the rising tide of opioid-related overdose deaths. Earlier this year, Texas’s Legislature added Texas house Bill 6 (HB 6) to the list of measures designed to reduce the number of fentanyl overdoses and fatalities. The law creates a new offense and modifies existing laws as they pertain to fentanyl.

Murder for Supplying Fentanyl

The section of HB 6 that hits the hardest amends Section 19.02 of the Texas Penal Code, adding that it is considered murder if a person “knowingly manufacturers or distributes” any quantity of fentanyl and someone dies as a result of injecting, inhaling, or introducing it into their body. There is a defense built in that excuses individuals who are authorized and qualified to distribute the drug and do so in conformity with the law.

There are a few aspects of this new crime that stand out and should be noted. First, a person can be found guilty of murder if they knowingly distributed or manufactured fentanyl and death followed. The defendant does not need to have intended to kill the person

Next, there is no minimum amount of fentanyl that needs to have been distributed or manufactured. Even the smallest quantity of fentanyl can now support a murder charge, so long as that fentanyl or any part of it caused the person’s death.

Last, the new law says it is not a defense that the fentanyl that was distributed was later modified in some way or combined with some other drug. You could still be liable for murder if you distributed a small quantity of fentanyl to another person who later died after mixing it with some other substance and ingesting it.

This offense is a first-degree felony and is punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

Other Modifications to Existing Laws

Texas HB 6 also increases the penalties for manufacturing or delivering fentanyl. If the amount involved is under one gram, you could face between two to ten years in prison. Manufacturing or delivering over 400 grams of fentanyl can result in a minimum 15-year prison sentence, although you could receive a life sentence.

Drug-Related Charges Deserve a Competent Defense

All criminal charges can affect your life in various negative ways, but Texas HB 6’s provisions mean you should take any charge involving fentanyl especially seriously. You may have valid defenses available that can mitigate any punishment you would receive or result in a dismissal of the charges. The only way you will know is by talking with an experienced drug defense lawyer.

Call the Law Office of Kerissa Chelkowski today at (210) 228-9393 if you have been charged with any drug-related crime. You can also reach us online through our website.