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Delaware Senate Democrats

Sens. Hansen, Mantzavinos sponsor bills to help
law enforcement crack down on large-scale drug traffickers

April 27, 2023

DOVER – Senate Democrats introduced two bills this week that will help law enforcement keep fentanyl and other hard drugs out Delaware’s communities by keeping the people who sell them off of our streets.

“Nearly 1,000 of our neighbors have lost their lives in fatal overdose in just the last two years alone and the vast majority of them had fentanyl in their system when they died,” said Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown. “While my colleagues and I have worked hard to expand treatment options for substance-use disorder, we also need to do more to hold big-time drug traffickers accountable for the death and destruction they are causing across our state. The bills we are introducing today will give police officers the tools they need to crack down on drug traffickers without criminalizing the victims suffering from addiction.”

Sponsored by Sen. Hansen, Senate Bill 101 would add specific amounts of fentanyl and prescription opioids to each of the drug quantity tiers in Delaware Code that are used by prosecutors to file criminal charges and used by judges to set prison sentences.

“The current limitations of Delaware Code means that prosecutors have to charge fentanyl traffickers with heroin possession, even though we all know fentanyl is much deadlier and the doses are a fraction of the size,” said Sen. Spiros Mantzavinos, D-Elsmere, a co-prime sponsor of SB 101. “Updating the drug code to include tier weights for fentanyl and its many derivatives will allow law enforcement to accurately pursue possession of this incredibly potent and dangerous substance at every stage of the criminal justice process.”

“As the illegal drug market changes, our criminal justice system also must evolve,” said Rep. Krista Griffith, a former state Department of Justice prosecutor and the House prime sponsor of SB 101. “Updating Delaware law to make it easier to charge specifically for fentanyl and opioids means we will be holding people accountable for dealing deadlier substances. Too many people are burying loved ones and the death toll keeps rising.”

Sponsored by Sens. Mantzavinos, Senate Bill 100 would increase the penalties for possession and/or sale of large quantities of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Specifically, the bill would designate the highest tier of weights and potency (Tier 3) as a violent felony, meaning a judge would be more likely to hold someone charged with possessing or dealing large quantities of illegal drugs on cash bail, while someone found guilty of Tier 3 dealing or possession could face stiffer sentences.

“Taken together, these bills will correct a blind spot in Delaware code when it comes to prosecuting major drug traffickers, particularly those who are poisoning our communities with fentanyl,” Sen. Mantzavinos said. “I believe strongly that we can pass common-sense laws that protect our communities from violence and deadly drugs, while supporting policies that create a fairer and more just criminal justice system. These bills will do exactly that and save lives in the process.”

“There is a significant difference between small quantities of certain drugs and large amounts that the more serious drug dealers traffic in. Delaware needs to treat the street-level dealer differently than the major dealers who traffic in large quantities, and this increased penalty will accomplish that goal,” said Rep. Bill Bush, the House prime sponsor of SB 100. “If we want to be successful at striking a blow against the fentanyl and heroin epidemic, we need to attack the source, and at a state level, that means putting large-scale dealers out of business.”

“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep our communities safe. Fatal overdoses are increasing across our state and our country, and we have lost too many of our neighbors to fentanyl and other illegal drugs,” Governor John Carney said. “I want to thank Senator Mantzavinos, Senator Hansen, Representative Bush and Representative Griffith for their leadership on this issue.”

“The opioid epidemic remains a clear and present danger in our state, and the spread of fentanyl is making it deadlier,” Attorney General Kathy Jennings said. “Thanks in large part to people like Sen. Hansen, we’ve changed our laws to prioritize compassion and treatment for low-level drug offenders; those efforts have saved lives, and they need to continue. But we’re losing more than 500 lives per year to fatal overdoses. We need to combine compassion for the drug trade’s victims with accountability for its beneficiaries, or that number will continue to grow. These measures are designed to target fentanyl and to disrupt the highest levels of the drug trade without repeating the heavy-handed mistakes of the 1980s and 1990s. I’m grateful to all the sponsors for their leadership on this package of bills and I’m looking forward to helping them pass.”

SB 100 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 101 has been assigned to the Senate Health & Social Services Committee.