A decade ago, few members of the public were familiar with fentanyl – the powerful prescription drug used to help manage severe pain. That has changed. Not only is fentanyl a household term, the painkiller itself has become the target of intense scrutiny from law enforcement and prosecutors across the nation.
Here in Florida, the number of fentanyl-related overdoses has been on the rise. In response, state officials have gone out of their way to give prosecutors more options when filing charges in fentanyl-related cases.
Recent changes to state laws
In recent years, the state’s Legislature has made a few changes to how the law classifies fentanyl. These alterations can result in more stringent charges with extreme penalties. There were three key changes.
First, fentanyl, fentanyl analogs and fentanyl derivatives now all fall under the Schedule I drug category. This means distribution charges related to fentanyl come with the harsh regulations established by this classification.
In addition, officials added mandatory minimum sentencing for convictions on a distribution charge related to fentanyl, an analog or a derivative. For example, a conviction for distributing 4 grams or more of fentanyl results in a minimum three-year prison sentence. Fourteen grams can lead to a 15-year minimum prison sentence, and for 28 grams and above, it becomes a 25-year minimum.
Lastly, the recent law changes allow a defendant to be charged with felony murder if prosecutors claim a death was caused by the distribution of fentanyl, an analog or a derivative. In these cases, the prosecution does not have to prove intent or even knowledge – only that the defendant illegally distributed the drug that caused the death.
Defending against fentanyl charges
Anyone facing distribution charges related to fentanyl needs to be fully aware of the context behind such prosecutorial decisions. The public awareness campaigns, coupled with the severe criminal penalties, means these types of cases can be extremely difficult to defend against. Authorities may want to throw everything they can at you, in hopes something sticks.
At Brunvand Wise, P.A., we help clients defend their liberties in both state and federal drug cases. With the right strategic approach, it may be possible to push back against unfair accusations and minimize some of their potential impacts.