The New Fentanyl Murder Law in Texas

Texas Criminal Law Updates

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The Texas offense of Fentanyl Murder went into effect on September 1, 2023, in response to public pressure related to the rise of fentanyl-related overdoses in Texas. Passed by the 88th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature, the law was created by amending the existing Texas Murder statute.

The Texas law of Murder is defined in Section 19.02 of the Texas Penal Code. Prior to the Fentanyl Murder law, there were only three defined ways to commit murder in Texas: intentionally or knowingly causes and individual’s death, intending to cause serious bodily injury that ends up resulting in death, and “felony muder.”

With the passage of the Fentanyl Murder law, there is now a fourth way to commit Murder under Texas law. Essentially, the law says that you’ve committed murder if you manufacure or deliver fentanyl or another enumerated drug that someone ends up using the drug and dies.

What is the Fentanyl Murder Law in the state of Texas?

The Fentanyl Murder law essentially says that you’ve committed murder if you manufacture or deliver fentanyl or another enumerated drug, and a person dies after using it. This offense is codified under the existing Texas offense of Murder, and you can learn more about this offense on our page dedicated to the legal analysis of the Texas Murder statute. The 88th Texas Legislature codified the Fentanyl Murder law in 2023,[1] effective September 1, 2023.[2]

Are there any new defenses to prosecution for Murder after the passage of the Texas Fentanyl law?

Yes, there is a brand new (as of 2023) defense to prosecution codified at Section 19.02(e), Texas Penal Code.

It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (b)(4) that the actor’s conduct in manufacturing or delivering the controlled substance was authorized under Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, or other state or federal law.[3]

Are there any problems with the new Fentanyl Murder law?

Yes, there are some real problems with this law. Sadly, the fentanyl epidemic is enormous and has resulted in many thousands of deaths. Under this new law, it’s possible – even likely – that everyone who now dies of a fentanyl overdose is now a murder victim.

It’s highly unlikely that police departments across Texas have the resource to devote homicide detectives to each and every Fentanyl death or spend the resources necessary to conduct a proper murder investigation in each case. This will inevitably lead to very selective prosecution of this law.

^1. H.B. 6, 88th Texas Legislature, Section 20

^2. H.B. 6, 88th Texas Legislature, Section 25

^3. H.B. 6, 88th Texas Legislature, Section 20

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