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Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced Tuesday that his office will now be able to charge convicted drug dealers with murder if they manufacture or sell drugs, including fentanyl, and someone dies as a result.

Fentanyl deaths have skyrocketed across the nation over the last few years, with Orange County experiencing a 1,000% increase over the last five years as a result of an increase in fentanyl being sold under the guise of other less potent drugs, the DA’s office said. Statewide, fentanyl deaths have increased 1,513%.

“These are not overdoses. These are murders,” Spitzer said. “These dealers are essentially handing a loaded gun to unsuspecting victims knowing that they will probably die and they don’t care. Fentanyl is cheap, it’s easy to get, and it’s killing people who had no idea they were taking it. I refuse to let these drug dealers get away with murder.”

The D.A.’s office has adopted a policy to administer an advisement in qualifying cases to educate offenders about the dangers of fentanyl and related substances.

“Many of these teenagers and very young people are dying because they thought they were buying drugs to ease anxiety, and instead, drug dealers sold them a fatal dose of fentanyl,” Spitzer said. “Not a single drug on the street should be considered safe. It only takes one pill. One time.”

Defendants convicted of a variety of drug-related charges, including possession for sale of cocaine, heroin and opiates — which most commonly contain fentanyl — loitering to commit a controlled substance offense, and transportation of a controlled substance for sale, will be advised of the dangers of controlled substances. And if they commit a drug-related crime again and someone dies as a result, they can be charged with murder, according to Spitzer’s office.

The D.A.’s office said it’s also working with the O.C. Sheriff’s Department and police departments across the county to formally warn drug dealers and manufacturers of the deadly consequences of fentanyl and other controlled substances at the time of their arrest. The advisement will allow prosecutors to consider additional charging options for repeat drug dealers in the event someone dies as a result of their actions.