OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office has determined guidelines for charges relating to fentanyl overdose deaths.
According to the D.A.’s Office, it will begin charging user-to-user fentanyl overdose deaths as Manslaughter in the First Degree. People sharing the drug with no intent to cause harm to the person they are sharing with is presented as a different fact scenario for prosecutors.
Officials say each case is different and will be thoroughly reviewed to decide if aggravating or mitigating conditions call for a different charge. The cases will be handled on a case-by-case basis to determine if the individuals would benefit from Drug Treatment Court, which provides an overall approach to breaking the cycle of addiction and incarceration.
“We are very sensitive about fentanyl and how dangerous it is,” said Oklahoma County
District Attorney Vicki Zemp Behenna. “I want to protect the community at large, and
that includes a user who may be in distress. No one should be afraid to call for medical
help if someone they are using with takes a turn for the worse.”
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) says fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and Schedule II drug that is 100 to 1,000 times stronger than morphine. An issue of great concern is fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl.
According to OBNDD, drug organizations will often buy fentanyl and use it as a cutting agent because it is strong yet inexpensive. Heroin can be cut with fentanyl, or it can be pressed into pills to look like other drugs such as Oxycodone.
Fentanyl drug sheets from OBNDD show fentanyl is so powerful that the difference between getting high and overdosing is significantly small. The agency determined that fentanyl opioids were the most common drug linked to overdose deaths in 2019.
“We take any death seriously and there should be accountability when someone dies from
an overdose of fentanyl,” said Behenna. “But our goal should be to pursue the dealers and
traffickers who are making a profit on the backs of Oklahomans who have an addiction.
Of particular concern is counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills, which OBNDD says is the most
common form of illicit fentanyl on the streets.”
The District Attorney’s Office says it will work alongside local and state law enforcement to go after the dealers and traffickers who are distributing the drug in Oklahoma County. They will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including cases where the dealers’ and traffickers’ conduct can be a proven cause of an overdose death, according to officials.