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Lawmakers Consider: Should Drug Dealers Face Manslaughter Charges If They Distribute a Fatal Dose?

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
These are the amounts of heroin and fentanyl that can cause a fatal overdose.

One New Hampshire lawmaker wants to add a new charge to the state’s criminal code: Under his proposal, someone who provides another person with a lethal dose of heroin or fentanyl would be charged with manslaughter

A similar statue is already on the books in New Hampshire and has been used frequently by prosecutors this past year, with nearly 100 cases pending. The difference under the new proposal is that the charge would hold a maximum sentence of up to 30 years, rather than the current sentence of life in prison.

During a public hearing on Wedensday, members of the House Criminal Justice Committee were quick to point out these similarities — arguing that the bill seems redundant. Its sponsor, Salem Rep. Bob Elliot, disagreed.

“When someone does cause a death it gives the Department of Justice another avenue to pursue in the law as it is currently written," Elliot told lawmakers. "This just gives them another bullet to put into their own gun."

The bill also got pushback from the drug advocacy group New Futures, who said the proposal focuses too much on law enforcement as a solution to the drug crisis.

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