How Fentanyl Is Leading to Murder Charges in California

Riverside County Pursuing Murder Charges for Fentanyl-Related Deaths

It is 50 times stronger than heroin and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. About 2 milligrams of this “one and done” drug could be fatal for most people. The drug is often laced into cocaine, heroin, or meth. It has killed more than 36,000 people in 2019 alone and will continue to cause more deaths in the years to come. Other alarming truths of this drug include:

  • This drug is typically made in China and transported through Mexico
  • Since 2018, authorities have seized more than 332 pounds of the drug in San Bernardino County
  • 1,500 pounds of this drug ― not including seizures in pill form ― were seized since 2018
  • The Orange County crime lab saw a 100% increase in the presence of this drug in all drugs getting tested
  • Between 2017 and 2020, deaths related to this drug increased by:
    • More than 240% in LA County
    • 505% in Orange County
    • 808% in Riverside County
    • 960% in San Bernardino County

These are the facts of fentanyl.

How is Riverside County is responding to this lethal reality? Prosecutors are honing in on these cases and pursuing murder charges against people suspected of being responsible for fatal overdoses. As such, anyone who is involved in the sale and distribution of fentanyl could face murder charges as well as drug charges.

In February 2021, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged 3 men with murder for supplying fentanyl to unwitting drug users, and charged a fourth man on March 5th on suspicion of murder tied to a fatal overdose.

As you can see, prosecutors aren’t messing around with fentanyl. To reduce and eventually eliminate overdoses, DA Mike Hestrin announced his aggressive crackdown on alleged drug distributors in response to the proliferation of fentanyl in Riverside County and the sharp rise in deaths. To put it into perspective, the county had 25 fentanyl-related deaths in 2017, 55 in 2018, 117 in 2019 and 227 last year.

But Riverside County is not alone.

Prosecutors in San Luis Obispo and Contra Costa counties pressed murder charges against suspected drug dealers over the year, as well as those in Florida and Colorado. This may become a nationwide trend.

Implied Malice in Fentanyl-Related Deaths

Implied malice plays an important role in murder charges connected to fentanyl overdoses. Simply put, implied malice means a person knew their actions were harmful and potentially fatal, but decided to commit those acts regardless.

In this case, the 4 men who were charged with murder in Riverside County were all aware of the potential lethality of selling fentanyl-spiked drugs but sold them anyways, warranting second-degree murder charges.

This could very well happen to you.

If you play any role ― major or minor ― in the sale or distribution of fentanyl, you could be looking at second-degree murder charges. This means that even if you, for example, transported the lethal drug in your vehicle or helped drug users find fentanyl dealers, authorities may charge you for murder AND drug crimes. Further, if you sell fentanyl-laced drugs to a friend who then sells it to someone else without your knowledge, you could be held responsible for that “someone’s” death even if you had no connection.

How Alexandra’s Law Could Impact You

SB 350, or “Alexandra’s Law” was introduced in February in honor of 20-year-old Alexandra Capelouto, a college student who died of a fentanyl overdose.

If this proposed legislation were to pass, first-time offenders convicted of selling or distributing controlled substances would get issued a warning on the harmfulness of their actions and the murder charges that could arise as a result. The purpose of this proposal is to discourage drug suppliers from dealing fentanyl, and if it passes, deaths could plummet while murder charges skyrocket.

That’s where we come in.

If you have been charged with murder in Contra Costa or Alameda Counties, put a former prosecutor with 25+ years on both sides of the system in your corner. Attorney Christopher Lamiero worked for over 21 years as a prosecutor for the Alameda County DA’s Office before spending several years in the Santa Clara County DA’s office. Thus, he has the legal connections, insights, and resources you need to have better odds at resolving your case. By working to minimize the impacts of your case, your murder charges could not only get dropped altogether but also your drug charges.

To speak with an experienced, responsive attorney, contact our office online or at (925) 259-3337!

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