New Florida Law Prosecutes Fentanyl Dealers as Murderers
A new Florida law that went into effect on October 1, 2017, now classifies drug dealers who peddle fentanyl under the trafficking and murder statutes. The first-degree murder section now includes verbiage related to adults who sell a lethal dose of fentanyl. This means a dealer who is convicted of first degree murder for this offense would face life in prison or receive the death penalty.
Fentanyl Stronger Than Heroin
It is believed that fentanyl is potentially up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Overdose rates in the state of Florida have increased, especially as fentanyl is often combined with heroin, sometimes without the buyer or distributor’s knowledge. The new law basically does not care whether the dealer knew the drugs were laced with fentanyl, as long as it contained some sort of mixture, they can be charged with first degree murder.
Still Tough to Prove
Just because the law has been passed does not mean it is a slam dunk for prosecutors who want to tack on the first-degree murder charge. Police and prosecutors have to work to put together a solid case, which starts with the medical examiner’s office. The medical examiner must say with a high degree of certainty that the main cause of death was in fact fentanyl. If the medical examiner cannot, due to some other contributing factors, it stops there. Law enforcement has the duty of also proving who the responsible party was who sold the fatal dose. This may mean a witness who in some cases also bought the drug, but survived.
There are some instances where investigators may tie a dealer to a death without a witness. In the case of Wesley Greer, who died in 2015 from a fentanyl overdose, they were able to link him to the dealer because Greer purchased the drug through a website, drove to Orlando to pick it up, and died the same night he returned home.
First Case Under New Law
Central Florida saw its first fentanyl case involving murder charges against Tamas Harris. Harris was charged with selling fentanyl to Sonny Priest. Priest died in December after overdosing on a mixture that included fentanyl. Law enforcement helped build the case against Harris by working with the deceased’s friend, Jason Baumgardner, who also purchased drugs from Harris. Law enforcement had Baumgardner text Harris saying that he did not want the same stuff he sold to Priest. Harris responded that the supply was new. Harris’ lawyer made a motion to dismiss citing the prosecutions’ inability to definitively prove Harris was the one who sold the fatal dose.
Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug offense, no matter whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, you need to have the best Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer representing you. Depending on the amount of the substance and circumstances, some prosecutors may offer favorable plea bargains to defendants, which could result in probation rather than jail time. If you have been charged under the new law that allows fentanyl dealers to be prosecuted for first degree murder, it is even more important that you contact a qualified criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law office of William Wallshein, P.A., at 561-533-1221 today to set up a consultation to discuss the specific facts of your case.