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Bill would allow murder charges for distributor in fentanyl overdose deaths

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(The Center Square) – A new Tennessee bill would allow district attorneys to pursue second-degree murder chargers for those found distributing fentanyl that results in another person’s death.

Senate Bill 1754 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and will next head to Finance, Ways and Means.

“I recently visited the Texas border to see where the fentanyl we are seizing in Tennessee is coming from,” said Sen. Adam Lowe, R-Calhoun. “I spoke with border patrol agents and there is another level of this crisis that hasn’t even made it to Tennessee yet. The question is: what more can we do? We have to address the trafficking of fentanyl and we have to take a hard line on fentanyl in Tennessee.”

A fiscal note says the bill would cost the state $2.4 million in increased incarceration costs. Lowe said he believes he has worked on a way to fund the bill in this year’s Tennessee budget.

Lowe said Tennessee is second in the U.S. in fentanyl overdoses and he believes the I-75 corridor is a major distribution point for the drug.

The law allows someone to be prosecuted for drug distribution along with second-degree murder.

It also allows geotracking services to be used to find and prosecute distributors that cross county lines.

Stephen D. Crump of the state district attorney’s conference said the new law creates an important distinction as the murder charges for distribution would be prosecuted under the drug statute instead of the homicide statute.

He believes that is important as some jurors become confused by or philosophically disagree with distribution deaths being considered homicide.

“We believe that will greatly reduce the hindrance to prosecuting those cases and frankly will send murderers to prison,” Crump said.

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