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Drug-overdose manslaughter bill passes Florida House unanimously

The Florida House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that would hold drug dealers criminally responsible when their products cause death. Contributing to a death by distributing a controlled substance would be considered manslaughter. A corresponding bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

In addition to the manslaughter charge for contributing to death, the bill also adds regulations regarding the opiate drugs fentanyl and carfentanil. Both would be added to Florida's Schedule I of controlled substances.

Fentanyl, which was ruled responsible for the death of internationally renowned artist Prince last year, is approximately 100 times as powerful as morphine and is sometimes used by opioid addicts. The bill adds a newly created charge of fentanyl trafficking to Florida law. If the bill is signed into law by Governor Scott, possessing over four grams of fentanyl would be a first-degree felony, with mandatory fines and a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Carfentanil is an estimated 10,000 times as potent a drug as morphine. It is used to tranquilize large game animals such as rhinos and hippopotamuses.

According to the Bradenton Herald, heroin dealers have been found to be cutting both fentanyl and carfentanil into their heroin products -- or even selling the substances straight but labeled as heroin. These practices seem very likely to cause death.

The opiate addiction epidemic in Florida and nationwide is a national emergency. Certainly, desperate people seeking heroin to salve an opiate addiction should not have to guess whether they are receiving a deadly mix or substitute. It remains to be seen whether additional criminalization will be effective at preventing this, however.

If you are charged with drug dealing, this is a new and serious possibility for you. Do not hesitate. Call a lawyer right away. Your consultation is completely confidential.

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