Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, have dominated the news about the unregulated drug market in recent years. Fentanyl is of particular concern to police departments and federal regulatory agencies because it is many times stronger than traditional opiate drugs or heroin and is also cheaper to produce.
Fentanyl addiction is at an all-time high, and overdose deaths have also surged upward in recent years. Lawmakers have begun cracking down on fentanyl and its analogs, including other synthetic opioid medications. Those arrested for the possession or distribution of fentanyl could potentially face severe consequences, if convicted.
How the federal government penalizes fentanyl
Someone charged at the federal level for fentanyl could face five years or more in custody without parole for possession offenses. A prior felony drug offense will increase that base potential penalty to 10 years, and higher weights can also lead to longer sentences.
If someone dies because of fentanyl, the people implicated face a mandatory 20-year sentence, even if they have never had a prior conviction. There is a mandatory life sentence for those with a prior drug felony involved in a situation where someone died because of fentanyl.
How Tennessee handles fentanyl cases
Possession of small amounts of fentanyl, up to 10 grams, is currently a misdemeanor at the state level. However, those in possession of more than 10 grams or accused of selling even half a gram of fentanyl will face felony charges. Currently, there is a bill working its way through the House, HB1242, which could increase the charges possible for possession of more than half of a gram of fentanyl.
What determines where someone faces charges?
The criminal court with jurisdiction in someone’s case will vary depending on numerous factors. Obviously, the location of the alleged offense is a consideration. Other important factors include what law enforcement agencies discovered or investigated the crime, the use of federal systems during the commission of the crime and any interstate or international complications.
Regardless of which courts bring the charges, someone who has been accused of a fentanyl offense can anticipate significant consequences unless they respond proactively. Seeking legal guidance to better understand possible penalties may help to motivate someone to fight back against fentanyl-related drug charges and the risk of a conviction.