Few substances have surged onto the North American recreational drug scene in the way that fentanyl has over the last decade. Once touted as a viable, low-cost alternative to traditional opiate pain management, fentanyl has become the scourge of law enforcement organizations and addiction specialists across the country.
Thousands of families have lost a loved one to fentanyl, including many families right here in Tennessee. The impact fentanyl has had on public health and safety now inevitably influences how the courts handle drug charges against an individual accused of an offense related to fentanyl.
They may face very strict enforcement efforts
Many police officers and judges view it as their responsibility to help curb the steep rise in fentanyl abuse and the tragic, preventable deaths that have occurred in recent years. In 2015, there were 169 deaths in Tennessee caused by a fentanyl overdose. In 2021, there were 2,734 fentanyl-related deaths.
This surge has affected everything from prison populations to the healthcare system. There is a lot of pressure on the criminal justice system to reduce fentanyl abuse. Therefore, some judges and prosecutors pride themselves on being as strict as possible when pursuing or sentencing fentanyl-related drug cases. Individuals who plead guilty never know whether a judge will show them leniency or want to send a message to others.
They may have grounds to ask for help
Plenty of research affirms the connection between medical issues and fentanyl abuse. People easily become dependent after a surgery or broken bone. In some cases, the courts can help those trying to overcome their addiction. Those who are facing criminal charges that they affirm result from a substance abuse disorder may qualify for drug court proceedings. Tennessee does offer rehabilitative support for those involved in the criminal justice system because of a substance abuse disorder in qualifying cases. Those who qualify for drug court can avoid incarceration and the risk of a lifelong criminal record.
Being aware of the factors that can influence how the courts handle someone’s drug charges can help those who have been recently arrested make better choices about how they plan to respond with the assistance of an experienced legal professional.