West Virginia House passes drug death, suffocation bills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia House of Delegates on Friday approved a measure to create a new crime of giving someone a drug that kills them.

Lawmakers passed the bill 90-3 without debate. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The proposal carries a felony penalty of one to three years of imprisonment and states that a person must be found to be acting with “reckless disregard” for the health of others.

Del. Brandon Steele, a Republican who spoke on behalf of the bill, said the measure could apply to drug dealers and people who share drugs.

The House also unanimously passed a bill to make suffocation and asphyxiation crimes punishable by up to five years in prison.

Del. John Shott, Republican of Mercer County, said the bill comes in response to a request from prosecutors who said the state’s current strangling crime doesn’t always cover similar incidents.

“For instance, if you might imagine an exceptionally large person, and you’re on the floor and they’re sitting on your chest, and it’s having essentially the same helpless horror that you might not breathe, that would be similar to the same effect as a strangling,” Shott said.

He also outlined a scenario where a person wrapped a plastic bag around someone else’s head.

The proposal now heads to the Senate.

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