Fentanyl drug dealers will be charged with second-degree murder when a customer dies of an overdose, San Francisco’s new district attorney says.
Recently elected DA Brooke Jenkins said the decision is aimed at combating the escalating fatal overdoses of the especially dangerous drug fentanyl. A second-degree murder conviction carries a prison term of 15 years to life, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sept. 28.
“Since 2020, nearly 1,700 people [in San Francisco] have died of drug overdose, mostly from fentanyl, in part because dealers have been allowed to operate with impunity for over two years,” Jenkins said in a statement.
Jenkins told the Chronicle that fentanyl has been a central focus of her office since she was appointed by Mayor London Breed to replace recalled DA Chesa Boudin in July.
Previously, drug dealers received a diversion program or little to no jail time for a nonviolent offense.
Public Defender Anita Nabha criticized Jenkins’ new policies and asserts that they are “a continuation of the failed war on drugs.” Nabha called the policy an attempt to jail and imprison those suffering from a public health crisis. “It’s not a solution,” she added.
Prosecutors have a burden to demonstrate clear and convincing evidence of malice or “implied malice,” wherein the accused dealer deliberately wanted the victim to die or exhibited a conscious disregard for human life, the newspaper reported.
Other aspects of the new fentanyl-related policy are also confusing some judges, said the story. In recent detention motions for seven accused fentanyl dealers, judges ultimately denied all of the motions. Judges are bound by the California Supreme Court to impose effective but least restrictive pre-trial terms, the article reported.
However, Jenkins has garnered support from Mothers Against Drug Deaths, a group comprised of family members of addicts and recovering addicts who have been known to protest open-air drug areas in the city’s Tenderloin district.
The group’s co-founder, Gina McDonald, reported she absolutely believes fentanyl dealers should be charged with murder and supports the new policy.
“The lethality of fentanyl presents new and unprecedented risks to our community, and we must do everything in our power to hold dealers accountable to help save lives,” Jenkins said. “We have to send a strong message in the community and the courtroom that we will not stand by and allow dealers to kill innocent people and those suffering from addiction.”