CrimeLocal Government

Fentanyl bills fail in state senate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On Tuesday, the California Legislature’s Public Safety Committee failed to pass two bills that would’ve imposed tougher penalties for convicted fentanyl dealers.

SB 350, named ‘Alexandra’s Law’ after a Riverside woman who died after taking what she believed was Oxycodone, would’ve enabled prosecutors to prosecute fentanyl deaths in a similar way to DUI.

Under California law, if someone is convicted of DUI and they get behind the wheel while impaired again, and end up killing someone, murder charges can be filed. Armando Moreno-Rodriguez, suspected of killing a bicyclist while driving drunk near the American River Parkway, is currently held in jail under that same law.

SB 350 aimed to institute a rule that convicted fentanyl dealers would receive a written warning of the drug’s dangers and, if they sold it again and it killed someone, could be charged with murder or voluntary manslaughter. In a press conference held Wednesday, the family of Zachary Didier, who died of fentanyl intoxication in December of 2020 after taking a fake pill, expressed their frustration with the bill fizzling out.

“The Public Safety Committee’s rejection of SB 75 and SB 350 yesterday is tremendously disappointing and allows the continuing danger of drug traffickers operating in our community,” Zach’s father, Chris, said. “I do believe treatment programs for drug users is a necessity, however, these measures address the dangers presented by drug traffickers.”

The suspected dealer in Didier’s death, accused of selling him the fake pills, is currently held without bail at the Placer County Jail. A preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled for next month.

Both bills failed to pass, despite support from law enforcement officials and victim families, after some senators and witnesses in opposition compared it to controversial policies centered around crack cocaine in the ’80s and ’90s. Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig pushed back against that idea on Wednesday.

“There’s simply nothing inconsistent with supporting smart criminal justice reforms and also supporting strong messages of deterrence and accountability,” Reisig said. “We can do both, and we must do both.”

SB 75 would’ve implemented additional sentences if dealers were caught with more than a kilo of the drug – up to 25 years depending on how much of the drug was in their possession. They could also be subject to a fine of up to $1M.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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