SC bill would charge drug dealers with involuntary manslaughter if drugs caused a death

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office dealt with hundreds of drug cases this year but one South Carolina senator is pushing for stiffer penalties for some drug dealers and traffickers.

South Carolina Senator, Greg Hembree, pre-filed a bill that specifically defines selling an illegal drug to someone, which leads to their death, as involuntary manslaughter.

“You’ve still got family and friends and people who care about that person who died and they just see justice not being done,” said Hembree.

He said those drug dealers and traffickers often don’t see any consequences for selling laced doses of heroin or opioids.

Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor, Jimmy Richardson, said the pre-filed law is a “step in the right direction” to fight the heroin epidemic in our state.

“Heroin’s bad enough but now they’re cutting it and sometimes even straight fentanyl so that’s where a lot of your drug overdoses and death are coming from,” said Richardson.

Richardson said the Solicitor’s Office has tried to use involuntary manslaughter and even death by poison to charge drug dealers and traffickers in the past.

However, the law is left up to interpretation by a judge and it has some grey areas. But Hembree’s bill specifically adds the following clause: “Involuntary manslaughter is the death of a person caused by the criminal negligence of another, or the reckless disregard of the safety of others, which may include the unlawful sale or delivery of a controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, or other unlawful substance when the ingestion of such substance caused the death of the user.”

“I think more than anything it’s allowing the judges to understand the legislative intent,” added Richardson. “This is a serious problem and this is one of the ways we’re going to address the problem.”

Hembree hopes the bill will also give the families a sense that justice has been served.

“If you’re engaged in this illegal conduct and it’s very foreseeable somebody’s going to die because of you, you should suffer the consequences,” he added.

Hembree’s pre-filed bill would also change the maximum sentence of involuntary manslaughter to fifteen years in jail instead of five.