SD lawmakers pass bill to increase penalties for fentanyl dealers in deadly overdoses

PIERRE, S.D. – A South Dakota bill that would create harsher penalties for fentanyl dealers who sell to someone who later dies has passed both the House and Senate. Senate Bill 6 is awaiting Governor Kristi Noem’s signature. The legislation would  increase the penalty for distributing drugs that cause death to a class 2 felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. For dealers who knowingly distribute fentanyl and their customer dies, the penalty would be a class 1 felony carrying up to 50 years in prison and up to life for deaths involving minors.

“This despicable act by the cartels and drug dealers is being done solely for financial gain with total disrespect for human life,” said Rep. Brian Mulder, R-Sioux Falls, during testimony. “Dealers and distributors are being intentionally more aggressive, and we need to respond where our laws match the intent of their actions.”

Currently, drug dealers can already be sentenced to 50 years in prison if their drugs kill an adult or up to life in prison if they cause a minor’s death. However, that’s only if a prosecutor decides to increase the sentence from the typical ten to 25 year drug sentence.

“Illicit drugs are now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45. Man-made fentanyl is involved in the majority of these deaths, which now surpass car accidents, firearms, suicide, and illnesses,” said Mulder.

According to the SD Attorney General, fentanyl cases in the state rose from 218 in 2022 to 237 in 2023.