Drug dealers could face murder charge for fatal fentanyl overdoses in Madera County


MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) — A charge for second-degree murder that comes with a 15-year to a life sentence if convicted.

This is what drug dealers could face if a person to whom they have sold fentanyl dies of an overdose.

The decision to prosecute drug dealers for fentanyl-related deaths started in Riverside County by District Attorney Mike Hestrin.

“I was at a conference with Mike Hestrin the other day and he is really amazing and a leader in all of this, I’ve got a call into him to sit down and chat with him about exactly how it’s going I think he told me he had 10 cases pending of murder for this fentanyl,” explained Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno.

Moreno said during a phone interview on Wednesday that they are following Hestrin’s lead in Madera County, which is located just north of Fresno, California.

“I want to talk with him through all of the fact patterns to see how our law enforcement can have the best information on how to build these cases so we can get these dealers off our streets and keep our kids safe,” said Moreno.

Assistant DA for Fresno County Jerry Stanley said in a statement they are also making some changes. His statement read in part:  

We’ve made modifications to our charging documents aimed at putting drug dealers on notice that they may be charged with murder if the fentanyl-laced drugs they distribute cause an overdose death

“So, if we can demonstrate that somebody knew how dangerous this drug was and continued to sell it then we can get a second-degree murder conviction, they knew it was dangerous to human life, there was a likelihood that someone was going to die if they continued to distribute this fentanyl and they distributed it anyway,” Moreno said.

As of August, fentanyl-related deaths in Fresno County had reached 29 overdoses, with 8 of the victims 20 years and younger, the youngest being 16. In Madera County this year alone, they’ve had 10 related fentanyl deaths, and these are the numbers they want to help reduce.

The district attorney in nearby Kern County is also warning that anyone who engages in illicit drug sales and whose actions result in death, could be charged with murder.

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