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Sample Letter For District Attorneys Regarding Plea Deals For Fentanyl Drug Dealers
If you would like to write to your local district attorney regarding enacting Alexandra’s law in plea deals for fentanyl drug dealers, below is a sample letter provided by Nathan Hochman and Matt Capelouto.
Dear Honorable Elected District Attorneys of California:
As you are well aware, the scourge of illegal fentanyl drug dealing has pervaded every community in California. Fentanyl operates like a silent assassin, targeting our children and young adults on a daily basis. It does not recognize party lines nor does it single out its victims based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation, where they live, or if they are rich or poor – it is an equal opportunity, lethal killer. In the last two years alone, there has been enough fentanyl brought into California to kill every man, woman and child in the state. Since January 2021, narcotics and organized crime task forces in Riverside Country alone have seized over seven kilograms (7,000,000 milligrams) of pure fentanyl in various drug busts.
Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine. As little as two milligrams (or two grains of sand) can kill within two minutes, and there are 5,000 milligrams in a teaspoon of fentanyl. The ingredients for fentanyl come mainly from China and are shipped to Mexico where the Mexican drug cartels manufacture it very cheaply in unregulated labs and then illegally import it into this state and throughout this country. Fentanyl is responsible for over half of the drug overdose deaths in California and is murdering over a thousand Californian children a year.
To make matters worse, drug dealers are hiding lethal doses of fentanyl inside counterfeit and fake Oxycodone, Percocet, Adderall, and Xanax pills (“fentapills”) or mixing it with traditional hard street drugs such as heroin, cocaine, meth, MDMA and even marijuana products such as honey oil to increase their profits per drug sale. Drug dealers then use social media, like Snapchat, to reach their victims, concealing from their victims that they are offering a potpourri of poisonous products masquerading as other drugs.
Given the magnitude and lethality of the threat that fentanyl poses for each one of your counties – arguably, an equal or much greater ongoing deadly threat than any other crime in your jurisdiction -- one would have expected our politicians in Sacramento to have joined with federal and local law enforcement efforts in an all-out assault on fentanyl. It is thus shocking to find out that a bill in the California State Senate, Senate Bill 350 (“SB 350”), that presented a common sense, balanced solution to deterring fentanyl drug dealing has been killed in the Public Safety Committee.
SB 350 would have required that notice be provided to convicted fentanyl dealers such that if they commit that crime again and someone dies, they could be charged with voluntary manslaughter or murder. Known as Alexandra’s law, SB 350 is named after Alexandra Capelouto, a 20-year-old college student who was murdered when she unknowingly purchased a counterfeit Oxycodone pill deceptively sold to her by a drug dealer using the social media platform Snapchat.
SB 350 is modeled after the notice provided to drunk drivers. That Watson notice under Vehicle Code Section 23593 advises convicted drunk drivers that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is “extremely dangerous to human life,” so if it continues and someone is killed, they can be charged with murder. SB 350 would provide a similar notice to convicted fentanyl drug dealers so that if they continue with their fentanyl drug dealing and someone dies as a result of their actions, they can be charged with voluntary manslaughter or murder.
Who can possibly be opposed to providing this notice to convicted fentanyl dealers? SB 350 does not target users or first-time fentanyl dealers; it does not impose mandatory minimum sentences; and it does not force a prosecutor to charge a convicted fentanyl dealer with voluntary manslaughter or murder. Instead, this law seeks to prevent first-time fentanyl dealers from becoming second-time fentanyl dealers so that innocent lives are saved. The law sends a clear deterrent message to fentanyl dealers that the consequences of their continued killing with their poison will be very severe. And it gives prosecutors another arrow in their quiver to protect Californians against fentanyl drug dealers without taking away a prosecutor’s discretion to consider all the circumstances involved with a particular defendant.
SB 350’s listed supporters include the following: California District Attorneys Association; California Peace Officers Association; California State Sheriffs’ Association; City of Rocklin; Hill Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center; Kings County Sheriff’s Office; Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; Orange County Sheriff’s Department; Riverside County District Attorney’s Office; Riverside County Sheriff’s Department; Rocklin Chief of Police; San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; San Diego County Sheriff’s Office; San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office; and over 250 individuals.
Faced with this very sensible and balanced law in addressing the spreading plague of fentanyl deaths, the Democrat leadership on the Senate Public Safety Committee nevertheless killed SB 350 during its hearing on March 23, 2021. Their knee-jerk opposition was based on the flawed logic that any sentencing enhancement (even a notice for a uniquely lethal drug), no matter how necessary to protect innocent lives, is necessarily wrong since it may increase incarceration for convicted fentanyl dealers whose actions kill children in the future. Stated differently, these politicians placed the interests of drug dealing killers over the lives of innocent children. The only parties celebrating the Democrats’ stance on this bill are the Chinese fentanyl suppliers, Mexican cartels, fentanyl dealers, and mortuaries throughout the state.
Though the Senate Public Safety Committee has refused to pass Alexandra’s law, the District Attorneys throughout the State have the power to take action. That action can require the following notice be included in all plea agreements for defendants pleading guilty or no contest to the unlawful manufacture, distribution, possession for sale, importation, transportation, administering, giving away, and furnishing of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in violation of Health and Safety Code Sections 11351, 11352, and 11379.6. The notice would be: “You are hereby advised that the unlawful manufacture, distribution, possession for sale, importation, transportation, administering, giving away, and furnishing of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues inflict a grave and deadly health risk to those who ingest or are exposed to them since such controlled substances are extremely dangerous to human life. If you engage in such conduct and a person dies as a result of that conduct, you can be charged with voluntary manslaughter or murder.”
This notice should be provided to the defendant in writing on the plea form with the defendant acknowledging in writing that the defendant has received such notice. This notice should also be provided on the record in court with the defendant again acknowledging that the defendant has received such notice.
The provision of such a Watson notice to the fentanyl drug dealing defendants will hopefully result in those defendants being deterred from committing any further fentanyl-related crimes. If such deterrence fails and a defendant commits another fentanyl-related crime that results in a person’s death, this notice will help establish implied malice for voluntary manslaughter or murder under Penal Code Sections 188(a) and (b). Discretion will still lie with each District Attorney on whether voluntary manslaughter or murder charges should be brought in the particular case, allowing each District Attorney to consider the totality of circumstances in making such decisions. However, this notice will go a long way to refuting any defense that the prior-convicted fentanyl dealer did not know that fentanyl poses a “grave and deadly health risk” and is “extremely dangerous to human life.”
Adopting this “Alexandra notice” should not be a political issue since the life and-death consequences of fentanyl drug dealing are too deadly, real and pervasive to engage in partisan gamesmanship. If even one first-time fentanyl drug dealer can be stopped by this notice from becoming a second- or third-time fentanyl drug dealer -- saving innocent lives in the process -- this notice is worth it.
I implore you to please take action and leadership on this issue while Sacramento sits on the sidelines. Our children’s lives depend on it.