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Southern California DA Announces Enhanced Charges for Selling Fentanyl-laced Drugs

Amid a fentanyl epidemic, dealers who knowingly sell dangerous pills to victims who die will now have to face murder charges.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced his prosecutors will now have the ability to charge convicted drug dealers with murder if they sell drugs, especially fentanyl, to an individual who dies as a result. 

Fatal fentanyl poisonings have increased dramatically, with Orange County seeing a 1,000% increase in deaths and California seeing a 1,513% increase statewide over the last five years. 

Unfortunately, the poisonings occur as drug manufacturers and dealers are creating counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, which is 60 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The pills are designed to look like prescription pills such as oxycodone, percocet, and xanax, even bearing identical insignia.

“I’m holding up a penny. The amount of fentanyl that can kill is the amount of fentanyl that can cover Lincoln’s nose. It’s that tiny, it’s that insignificant,” Spitzer said during the press conference.

This results in people buying what they believe to be prescription pills off the street, and after sometimes taking just one pill, they die of fentanyl poisoning without ever realizing they were ingesting it. 

“These are not overdoses. These are murders,” Spitzer said. “These dealers are essentially handing a loaded gun to unsuspecting victims, knowing that they will probably die, and they don’t care. Fentanyl is cheap, it’s easy to get, and it’s killing people who had no idea they were taking it.”

After seeing what was happening in the community, Spitzer decided to do what he could to make a difference after the California legislature failed to act. Now, if someone is convicted of a drug crime, they will need to sign a waiver in court acknowledging that if they sell drugs to someone who later dies; as a result, they can be charged with murder. 

In addition, the DA’s Office has partnered with county law enforcement, as police officers will now give the same warning when arresting individuals for drug crimes, which will be caught on body-worn cameras. 

Now, if someone commits another drug crime, such as knowingly selling a fentanyl-laced pill to an unsuspecting victim and they die, as a result, the videotaped advisement will be used as trial evidence, and the jury will see the individual was warned that they could be charged with murder. 

“I’m not going to let drug dealers get away with murder,” he said. “It’s not going to happen anymore if we can help it.”

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