Some state lawmakers say a bill filed this week would help fight the opioid epidemic by punishing drug dealers for causing deaths by overdose.
The Republican-backed legislation would classify the crime as "death by distribution."
State Representative Destin Hall is a co-sponsor. The Caldwell County Republican said that unlike with a murder charge, prosecutors would not have to prove malice. Hall said the punishment would be equal to a conviction for voluntary manslaughter - ranging from 3.5 to 7.5 years.
"There's also a crime for aggravated death by distribution if an individual has been previously convicted of certain drug crimes and it would carry a heightened punishment," he added.
Hall said the bill is meant to provide state prosecutors with another tool – and would not take resources away from addressing addiction.