Code Black: Murder Charges For Fentanyl Dealers


SARASOTA COUNTY – A few grains of fentanyl or carfentanyl can lead to an overdose or even death. Dealers who traffic these dangerous substances in Sarasota and Manatee Counties could be charged with murder, and a new bill will make that even easier.

When it comes to Fentanyl and Carfentanyl dealers, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight has a message.

“If individuals, the dealers, the traffickers, are going to find it necessary to deal this poison,” Knight said. “It’s like playing Russian Roulette with a gun, and if they’re going to pull the trigger and a gun goes off we’re going to charge them with murder.”

Knight says they are investigating opioid overdoses as homicides.

“It’s important to prove one that that substance is what created and caused the death,” Knight said. “And that we are able to through investigative means track back that this individual who is being charged was the one who dealt it to that person.”

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Todd Shear says many times those suffering from addiction are unaware they’re being sold the stronger fentanyl and carfentanyl.

“A lot of times 100 times fentanyl, a lot of times 100 percent carfentanyl,” Shear said. “So someone who thinks they can handle this particular dose in fact can’t handle that dose, it’s much more lethal to them and they end up passing.”

Sheriff Knight says dealers know how dangerous these drugs are.

“Knows that it has that potential to kill people,” Knight said. “Just like a gun will kill people, they know it. It’s in their hands just like a gun is in their hands. When they deliver it, and it causes a death, we’re going to charge them with murder.”

Captain Shear says come October 1st prosecuting dealers will be easier.

“House bill 477 is going to change some things for us,” Shear said. “And by making fentanyl and carfentanyl one of those substances that we can charge somebody y with murder with, and we will continue to look at every overdose case as if it were a homicide.”

Florida Senator Greg Steube was one of the lawmakers to introduce the bill to help get these drugs off the streets.

“If we can put the dealers behind bars,” Steube said. “And put them behind bars for a long time, then maybe that will solve the problem of all these people getting their hands on these drugs.”
Knight says putting them away might make other dealers think twice.

“The dealers were more aware of what’s going on. They’re just finding a way to make a profit,” Knight said. “They don’t care about the addicts, they don’t care if it kills people, so the message to the dealers and the traffickers, simply put in Sarasota County, if you deal it. You traffic it. It gets used and causes a death we’re going to charge you with murder.”

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at