MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that places strict legal penalties on someone who supplies a person with drugs that cause their death.

House Bill 82 (HB82), sponsored by House Pro Tem Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), would allow any person to be charged with manslaughter if they provide a person with a controlled substance that leads to their demise.

Pringle said he had personal reasons for bringing the bill.

"A friend of mine's son got addicted to Oxycodone," Pringle said. "And they sent them to rehab and got him cleaned up. They mortgaged their house; they mortgaged everything they were worth in order to get their son through rehab. And after he came out, his drug dealer was stalking him. Was going to [narcotics anonymous] meetings and waiting for the kid to come out of the meeting."

According to Pringle, after a long period of harassment, the dealer sold the man an oxycodone pill laced with fentanyl that killed him.

Doctors and pharmacists would be exempt from the law's provisions, assuming the drugs were lawfully prescribed and dispensed.

The penalty is applied regardless of how the person gave, sold or delivered the controlled substance.

The bill received vigorous opposition from House Democrats, who took debate time to argue that the law would be unfair for multiple reasons.

State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) introduced an amendment that clarified a person has to "knowingly" supply a person who delivered the controlled substance to be charged, protecting those who may unwittingly supply a person with a laced or tainted object.

State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) opposed the bill, asking if one person provides a person with a controlled substance to take together, and one person has a lethal reaction and one does not, could the person be charged? Pringle said he didn't have an answer to England's question.

He also noted that people give prescription medication to friends and family members "all the time."

"There are different levels of intent; there are different prescribed mental states that are necessary thresholds to prove what your conduct is in a particular situation," England said. "When we can't determine what your intent is, then we create it through recklessness; that's where manslaughter comes from. So what you're essentially saying is that the drug dealer that gives a person a substance and that person ultimately could die from that substance, if it happens, then we don't care what your intent is, we are saying you were reckless in causing that person's death."

Despite Democratic protest, the bill passed with a vote of 88-11, with two abstentions. The bill will now go to the Senate for deliberation.  

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