Children's deaths from fentanyl are on the rise, and some states are charging parents with murder, the Associated Press reports. They are being accused of “drug-induced homicide” under laws that allow prosecutors to press murder or manslaughter charges against anyone who supplies or exposes a person to drugs causing a fatal overdose. The laws are intended to target drug dealers. In California, prosecutors in at least three counties are turning to drunk driving laws to charge parents whose children die from fentanyl overdose. The approach will soon be tested in court. Supporters of the ramped-up enforcement say that by now those who use the synthetic opioid know the lethality of the drug and, like drunk drivers, they should know the consequences of exposing their children to their actions.
Critics say the parents didn’t intend to kill their children but instead made poor choices because of their addictions and are being further punished instead of being offered help. Authorities believe some of the children died after touching something with the powdery substance and then touching their eyes or mouth. The drug is not absorbed into the skin but experts say it can be lethal if as little as 2 milligrams enters the body. The National District Attorneys Association doesn’t track how many parents have been charged for exposing their children to fentanyl, but news reports and interviews with prosecutors show such cases have been on the rise since the onset of the pandemic.