Due to the growing number of fatalities caused by the use of opioids and their synthetic counterparts, Florida lawmakers decided to classify fentanyl as a murder weapon. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, an individual who is caught distributing the powerful fentanyl pills that can cause a fatal overdose may face first-degree murder charges. Because fentanyl is now considered a murder weapon, each fatal overdose may lead to accusations of providing an illegal substance with the intention of killing its user.
While many fatal overdoses have been determined to be accidental, Florida’s new law may allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for some defendants accused of selling or distributing fentanyl. To an aggressive prosecutor intent on convicting a defendant of homicide, there is not much difference between the trafficking of fentanyl and other dangerous narcotics such as heroin or cocaine.
Drug charges resulting from the sale of opioids and fentanyl have received a great deal of media attention, and licensed doctors across the nation are facing convictions over the deaths of some of their patients. The intention of killing a patient or any consumer of pain pills, however, is difficult to establish. In order to convict a defendant of a drug or homicide charge, it is up to the prosecution to prove the accusations are true beyond any reasonable doubt. Operating a pill mill or storing a large quantity of opioids without having any bona fide patients may provide some proof, but these are not the typical circumstances.
USA Today reports that 41% of doctors surveyed refused to see new pain patients and many are afraid to prescribe opioids. With the awareness of the dangers of pain killers, more doctors are holding back on prescriptions in fear of losing their license or facing criminal prosecution.