Mastriano pitches 25-year mandatory sentences for fentanyl dealers in fatal overdose cases
According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, the average minimum sentence for drug delivery resulting in death was just over six years in 2018
Jackie Springer of Shippensburg looks at a picture of her son, Austin Springer, at an event where Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano spoke about bills that would provide for a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug dealers who supply a fatal overdose of fentanyl.
Flanked by parents whose children died of fentanyl overdoses, Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano highlighted legislation Monday to target drug dealers who sell the dangerous opioids and would require first responders to report all overdoses.
Dubbed “Tyler’s Law” for 18-year-old Tyler Shanafelter, who died in 2020 after taking pills laced with fentanyl, SB 1295 would establish a mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of selling fentanyl that results in death.
“Our message to drug dealers needs to be clear. If you kill a Pennsylvanian through the sale of fentanyl you’ll face a mandatory minimum sentence in prison of 25 years,” Mastriano, the Republican senator from Franklin County, said.
Mastriano is also a co-sponsor of SB 1152, which would require police and first responders to report overdoses to a centralized repository to aid in mapping drug activity and detecting spikes in overdoses.
Shanafelter’s mother, Laura Shanafelter, spoke at a news conference Monday about her son’s substance use disorder. In October 2020, Tyler Shanafelter purchased what he believed were Percocet pills that were actually counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl, a synthetic drug 100 times more powerful than morphine.
“I am here today because we have a crisis in America,” Laura Shanafelter said. “This crisis is killing our children at record levels.”
Of the 5,075 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2020, 85 percent involved opioids including fentanyl, according to the Department of Health. The number of overdose deaths nationally exceeded 100,000 in 2021. About 71,000 involved synthetic opioids up from about 58,000 in 2020.
“Surely you can see a pattern here,” she said. “When over 100,000 people die from a poison, that is a weapon of mass destruction.”
Mastriano’s Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, has urged the Legislature to increase funding to fight the flow of fentanyl and prevent overdose deaths, spokesman Manuel Bonder said.
“As Attorney General, Josh has worked to arrest more than 8,000 drug dealers, taken millions of doses of heroin and fentanyl off the streets, and sued opioid companies to bring $1 billion back to Pennsylvania for treatment to help victims of the opioid crisis,” Bonder said.
He would continue to work to stop opioid addiction and deaths as governor Bonder said.
Although Pennsylvania already has a law to hold drug dealers responsible for overdoses caused by the substances they sell, most receive sentences far shorter than the statutory maximum of 20-40 years. A sentence of three or four years is like a slap in the face to a grieving parent, Laura Shanafelter said.
According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing, the average minimum sentence for drug delivery resulting in death was just over six years in 2018.
Commission Director Mark Bergstrom said Mastriano’s proposed mandatory minimum sentence would be a substantial increase over even the average maximum sentence, which is between 13 and 14 years. Under sentencing rules in Pennsylvania, judges must take into account numerous factors including past convictions in determining an appropriate sentence.
The most important factors in mandatory minimum sentences to deter criminal conduct are awareness of the penalty and applying it consistently, not length, Bergstrom said.
“If someone commits that crime, it’s really going to happen to them,” he said.
State Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs spokesperson Ali Gantz said Mastriano’s bills are being reviewed.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.