Criminal on trialIn June, 2023 Governor Abbott signed House Bill 6. This new law allows for prosecutors to bring murder charges against one who is shown to have provided fentanyl to an individual who subsequently dies from overdosing. Charges will carry a potential sentence of fifteen to ninety-nine years in prison. The extent to which individuals will be charged under this act have yet to be seen. As an Austin criminal defense lawyer, I am writing to discuss the specifics of the law and the process which a defendant will face.

Texas may punish fentanyl-related deaths with a sentence of fifteen to ninety-nine years in prison

Under Texas’ new law an individual may be sentenced to a term of fifteen to ninety-nine years in prison if they are convicted of supplying fentanyl to someone who used it in a fatal overdose. Prosecutors who bring such cases will have the evidentiary burden of tying the particular use, which resulted in death, with a particular drug transaction. While this may sound like a difficult evidentiary connection to make, investigations into a death may very well show where or how a deceased victim was receiving their drugs. If an individual is charged under this new act then they should expect the prosecution to aggressively pursue charges and for the judge to have little leniency in the event of a conviction.

House Bill 6 passed with bipartisan support and is seen as part of a broader effort to reduce fentanyl-related deaths in the state of Texas. Like all drug-related charges, various legal issues may arise in cases involving the new act. Such issues may involve the illegal seizure of evidence by police officers, the exclusion of statements taken in violation of one’s Miranda rights, and issues of improper eyewitness identifications if individuals claim to have “seen” the defendant dealing drugs. How to approach such charges will always depend on the specifics of the case and it will be important that anyone charged under this new act retain an attorney.

Defending against drug-related charges at trial

As stated above, it will be the prosecution’s burden to prove that the defendant provided the actual fentanyl which was used in the overdose. The prosecution, therefore, will need to prove when the purchase of drugs was made. It will not be enough, from a legal standpoint, to show that an individual sold fentanyl, at some point in time, to a person who overdosed. Whether the prosecution can present sufficient evidence of this, which will withstand appeal, will be an interesting issue in early cases tried under the act.

If you or a family member have been arrested then contact my office today to speak with an Austin criminal defense lawyer. I practice in no area besides criminal law and my office prides itself on providing quality service. We look forward to speaking with you. I pride myself on providing a high level of representation and I look forward to speaking with you. My office also serves the cities of Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander, and San Marcos, Texas.