HARRISBURG – Drug dealers who sell drugs that lead to the poisoning death of a victim should face harsher penalties. That’s the sentiment behind a bill introduced by Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) that was approved Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Pennsylvania is in the midst of a poisoning crisis,” Mastriano said. “Drug dealers are lacing their products with lethal doses of fentanyl and Pennsylvanians are dying. The people across Pennsylvania who are being poisoned to death deserve justice. We want drug dealers to know if they poison someone to death, they are going to face serious consequences.”
Mastriano’s Senate Bill 235 – also known as Tyler’s Law – would establish a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a minimum $15,000 fine for anyone convicted of selling or distributing drugs that result in a death.
Under the current Drug Delivery Resulting in Death Statute, drug dealers who poison victims with fentanyl can be back out on the streets in two years or less.
The latest numbers from the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing show the average offender convicted under the statute from 2017-2021 received a sentence of less than five years. A significant number of offenders received no jail time at all.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 100,000 fentanyl- and opioid-related deaths in 2021, representing a 15% increase from 2020.
Mastriano introduced Tyler’s Law in honor of Tyler Shanafelter, 18, who was the victim of drug poisoning on Oct. 10, 2020. Tyler purchased what he thought were Percocet pills. He didn’t know the pills were laced with lethal amounts of fentanyl. Tyler lived in the Senate district Mastriano represents.
Tyler’s mom, Laura Shanafelter, was at Tuesday’s committee meeting to support the bill. Following Tyler’s death, Laura learned the dealer who poisoned her son was back on the streets shortly after her son was killed. Laura has become an advocate for holding drug dealers accountable.
“The family members of fentanyl poisoning victims are crying out for justice,” Mastriano said. “Drug dealers who poison people with fentanyl are serial killers and they’re murdering people across our commonwealth. My bill would ensure these dangerous criminals spend a significant period of time behind bars.”
Mastriano’s bill would not apply to drug users who share drugs with family members or friends, or those who seek medical help for individuals who overdose.
Senate Bill 235 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Media contact: Josh Herman