2023 Bills

SB 254: Criminalizing Drug Dealing as Murder

This bill did not pass the Senate by a vote of 3-21. Review our tracker for more information.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of the legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

Drug deaths are alarmingly high with 178 Utahns dying from drug overdoses in 2021. Concerns about overdose deaths have been exacerbated by a sharp increase in fentanyl prevalence and fentanyl-induced deaths.

While Libertas shares these concerns, Senate Bill 254, sponsored by Senator Todd Weiler, is neither an appropriate nor an effective response. If passed, the bill would create the new crime of drug-induced homicide. If a person illegally sold a schedule I or II substance which contributed to the death of another person as a result of being ingested, injected, or inhaled, the dealer would be guilty of a second-degree felony. Although selling schedule I and II substances is already a second-degree felony, the sentence imposed for a homicide offense is presumptively prison, while selling drugs generally results in probation or a short jail sentence.  

Anytime someone sells methamphetamine or opiates, there is a chance that the buyer will overdose and die. In that sense, all people selling these substances are equally morally culpable. Yet this bill would treat similarly situated people differently based on factors outside their control, like how much an end user ingests and whether the end user simultaneously ingests other drugs.

Given that only a small percentage of drug sales result in an overdose death, this bill is unlikely to change the behavior of drug dealers or to reduce drug-induced deaths. For these reasons, Libertas opposes this bill.