San Diego Congressman introduces legislation to make it easier to prosecute fentanyl deaths as murders
Outside the City of Temecula Civic Center on Friday morning, dozens of signs surround a podium.
“Cassandra Walker-Nolin. Forever 38.”
“Matty Matich. Forever 16.”
“Alexandra Capelouto. Forever 20.”
The dates of deaths begin in 2018. More signs with death dates in 2019. Even more with 2020.
They reflect an increasing epidemic. More than 100,000 Americans die from overdoses each year, most from fentanyl.
Below their photos, the words: “Victim of drug induced homicide. Poisoned by fentanyl.”
Parents said their children didn’t know the pills they bought from dealers — often marketed as less-potent opioids like Percocet — contained fentanyl.
Alexandra’s father, Matthew Capelouto has been pushing to pass Alexandra’s Law in California for several years. U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Escondido, is taking it federal.
The law would require the court to warn anyone federally convicted of providing fentanyl that if they continue, and it results in someone’s death, they could be charged with murder.
That warning could later be used as evidence of knowledge or intent, a requirement for murder convictions.
Riverside County District Attorney Michael Hestrin said right now, his office doesn’t have much power to prosecute these deaths.
“Over the last three years, in conjunction with the sheriff and our police chiefs, we have filed 33 murder cases involving fentanyl deaths,” he said. “And we're proud that we've led the state in taking this new approach. But it's a drop in the bucket.”
Riverside County recorded more than a thousand fentanyl deaths between March of 2021 and March of 2023, according to the Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner’s office.
Harm reductionists said more incarceration won’t reduce overdose deaths. They are pushing instead for easier access to life-saving supplies like fentanyl test strips, Narcan and clean needles.