The Virginia senate shut down two major proposals in Governor Glenn Youngkin’s law and order agenda at a hearing on Wednesday, rejecting harsher penalties for fentanyl dealers and some firearms offenses.
HB 1455, patroned by delegate Timothy Anderson (R – Virginia Beach), would have have made it possible for prosecutors to charge fentanyl dealers whose customers overdose with first degree murder — a policy championed by Youngkin.
“It is unique as a Fentanyl bill, it targets something that is an actual problem in Virginia,” Anderson said. “This is only targeting dealers who actually know that they’re selling counterfeit pills to unknowing buyers.”
Federal prosecutors in Virginia have charged a series of dealers and traffickers across the state in recent months, securing convictions against some who dealt fatal doses.
Many of those dealers sell the powerful opioid to addicts who believe they’re receiving oxycodone or other prescription pills, which contain carefully measured doses. Instead, they receive counterfeit pills, manufactured in illicit presses to resemble prescription drugs but without careful control of the doses in each pill.
Still, Senator Joe Morrissey (D – Petersburg), himself a former defense attorney, raised objections to the bill, saying dealers could themselves be unaware of the contents of the pills they sell.
“How does one know, or should know, that the substance contains fentanyl, especially when drugs are so often cut and cut again?” he asked.
“That’s certainly a defense that could be raised. This just gives prosecutors a tool,” Anderson responded.
Ultimately, that bill was passed by on the recommendation of Senator John Edwards (D – Roanoke) on a close 8-7 vote, and sent to the state Crime Commission for further study.
The senate committee also rejected a bill that would’ve raised the mandatory minimum for a second offense of possessing a firearm when a felony is committed from 5 years to 10 years.
Senator Morrissey also spoke against that bill, saying he had personally seen cases in which such a proposal would have resulted in a 60 year mandatory sentence for a robbery where no one was injured.
Source : WRIC