In Florida, drug dealers selling fentanyl can now face murder charges if they distribute drugs to a person who dies during an overdose.
Responding to the fentanyl and opioid epidemic, about a year and a half ago, voted a bill into law that makes fentanyl a murder weapon. Distributing the drugs is now treated the same as an assault with a deadly weapon such as a knife or gun. The state already applies similar laws to cocaine, heroin and other dangerous narcotics.
Indictments Already Underway
Since the bill became a law, Florida prosecutors have obtained grand jury indictments for first-degree murder charges against a half-dozen individuals accused of selling the drug illicitly. However, most overdoses are still considered accidental. The first trial for murder is scheduled in December 2019, but prosecutors expect that there will be dozens more cases in the next few months. Lawmakers hope that the new law will help grieving families feel closure.
In one such case currently underway, accused fentanyl dealer Calvin Warren Jr., 36, faces murder charges for the death of 36-year-old Thomas Matuseski, a Boynton Beach man who overdosed in January 2018. Matuseski was a recovering heroin addict who apparently relapsed. When he used the drugs he had purchased from Warren, he was not aware that the drugs also contained fentanyl. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin alone, and Matuseski succumbed to overdose from the fatal concoction.
“Drug dealers have a financial incentive to spike heroin with fentanyl or its derivatives like carfentanil, as they provide a much greater high than heroin at a fraction of the price,” Aronberg said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle last year. “The end user has no way of visually identifying which batch of heroin has been laced with these synthetic opioids.”
Currently, there are also two additional cases of fentanyl-related homicides being charged as murder.
One of them is aimed at a woman who was more drug user than dealer. Last February, Vicki Sakers, 41, was charged in the death of her friend, Candace Moreland, 37, who died from an overdose in December 2017.
Sakers bought three pills from an unnamed heroin dealer and gave one to Moreland, who stopped breathing within hours. It is not clear whether the heroin dealer is charged with anything.