Texas bill would classify fentanyl overdoses as poisonings, allowing murder charges for dealers

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to classify fentanyl overdoses as poisonings.

It would allow prosecutors to charge people who make, sell, and deliver deadly drugs with murder. Charges for distribution of non-lethal fentanyl would also be upgraded.

In 2023, we are hearing more about North Texas students overdosing on fentanyl-laced pills. 

Just this week, the parents of 16-year-old Sienna Vaughn, a student at Plano Senior High School shared their painful story with FOX 4.

Sienna died after taking one pill that she thought was Percocet.

Parents of Plano teen who died from fentanyl hope sharing Sienna's story will help others

Earlier this month, an RL Turner student overdosed on campus and was revived with Narcan. 

At least three teens in Carrollton died from overdosing on fentanyl pills. 

Six individuals have been charged with selling fentanyl-laced pills to students at Carrollton-Farmers Branch middle and high schools. Pills were also sold to Hebron High School students. 

Last week, federal investigators arrested 18-year-old Stephen Brinson. They say he had thousands of fentanyl pills in his Flower Mound home and is being called a major distributor of pills in the Carrollton area. 

Harris County Senator Joan Huffman says data shows fentanyl is the number one killer of people 18-45 in the U.S. 

"According to the CDC, in the 12-month period ending in February 2022, more than 75,000 Americans died from overdosing on synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl," she said.

Senate Bill 645 passed unanimously this week, allowing medical examiners to designate fentanyl deaths as poisonings. This will allow prosecutors to charge distributors with murder. 

"The prosecutors and medical examiners felt that we need to change the language," Huffman said. "It will allow for the death certificate to indicate that fentanyl poisoning contributed to the cause of death when the medical examiner identifies a lethal amount of fentanyl."

Thursday in Fort Worth, a fentanyl task force met at New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church. Among the speakers was Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn. 

"It’s in our urban cities, gated communities, everywhere, one and dead. Unfortunately, it’s in our jail," he said.

Waybourn talked about how the number of lethal doses continue to increase in every seizure they make, saying a year ago it was 4 out of every 6 pills. Now, the DEA told him it's 6 out of 10. 

"We are looking for solutions. [The pastor] is so right. We are not going to arrest our way of this deal. We need to do some proactive things," he said.

The bill to enhance the charge of selling deadly fentanyl to murder is now in the Texas House.

Gov. Greg Abbott has already said he will sign it into law if it makes it to his desk.