A South Carolina Senate committee stalled a bill on Tuesday that would hold heroin dealers legally responsible for overdose deaths. The bill would require that a drug dealer face up to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter if one of their customers, died from an overdose.
The bill’s sponsor State Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said he’s not concerned about it getting carried over for more revisions. He still believes that this bill will eventually hold heroin dealers accountable.
“You sort of put the seller on notice, if you are selling fentanyl,” said Hembree. “You better know what you are selling, you better know what the potency is.”
State Sen. William Timmons R-Greenville said the bill would set a standard for law enforcement across the state on how to charge overdose crimes. Police in some parts of the state already charge heroin dealers in the ways similar to the one this bill proposes, while other agencies leave dealers out of overdose deaths. Timmons said it would also help curb the sale of laced heroin which could reduce those deaths.
But several committee members thought that the bill was not precise enough. They raised questions how long this proposed law would stay in effect after the sale of drugs. The committee also wondered if the bill would extend the language of manslaughter laws to deaths as a result of car crashes or gun violence. Sen. Gerald Malloy D-Darlington, said tinkering with involuntary manslaughter laws can be tricky because it could set precedent for using this statute on other crimes.
“What are we going to do for a gun manufacturer, or a person that ends up giving a gun to someone, and that person kills someone else or themself with a gun,” asked Malloy. “Are we going to charge them, also, with manslaughter?”
Malloy said he is not opposed to the more broad application of the statute, but wants to make sure other lawmakers are on board with the changes.
The committee unanimously carried the bill for further discussion but intends to pick it up later in the session.