What happens when you are caught with fentanyl?
People say that fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs on the market today. It is one of the leading causes of addiction and overdose.
In recent years, many law enforcement agencies have been cracking down on fentanyl. If you are arrested, you could be charged either by the state of Florida or by the federal government. Here is what to expect:
Florida charges and penalties
Simple possession of fentanyl is generally charged as a third-degree felony in Florida. Although ultimately it is up to the judge, you could face five years in prison. Along with the five years in prison, you can get up to five years’ probation and a $5,000 fine. The courts often give the maximum penalties for possession of fentanyl because the drug is considered so dangerous. The court can also take your driver’s license away for six months.
If you have a substance that is more than four grams, even if the total fentanyl in it is less than that, it is typically charged as trafficking. Florida is a minimum penalty state when it comes to fentanyl trafficking. This means that no matter what, you get the mandatory minimum sentence.
- 4 grams or more – three years in prison / $50,000 fine
- 14 grams or more – 15 years in prison / $100,000 fine
- 28 grams or more – 25 years in prison / $500,000 fine
These are the thresholds for fentanyl trafficking. In Florida, the State Attorney can waive the mandatory minimum. In such a case, the judge has another set of sentencing requirements.
Charges when someone who takes the drug dies
If you are accused of delivering fentanyl to someone who later dies of an overdose, the state of Florida could potentially charge you with an even more serious crime: first-degree murder.
Federal fentanyl trafficking charges
It is possible, but less likely, for the federal government to charge you with simple possession of fentanyl. Unfortunately, the potential penalties for fentanyl trafficking can be much higher when charged by the federal government.
The federal charge you face depends in part on how much fentanyl you allegedly had on you when you were arrested. It also depends on whether this would be your first offense.
- 40-399 grams of fentanyl/10-99 grams fentanyl analogue, first offense: Minimum 5 years, maximum 40 years. If there was death or serious injury involved, that changes to a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. Additionally, a fine of not more than $2 million for an individual or up to $5 million if not an individual.
- 40-399 grams fentanyl/10-99 grams fentanyl analogue, second offense: Minimum 10 years, maximum life in prison. If there was a death or serious injury involved, life imprisonment. Also, a fine of up to $4 million for an individual and $10 million if not an individual.
- 400+ grams of fentanyl/100+grams of fentanyl analogue, first offense: Minimum 10 years, maximum life in prison. If there was a death or serious injury involved, minimum 20 years, maximum life in prison. Also, a fine of up to $4 million for an individual and $10 million if not an individual.
- 400+ grams of fentanyl/100+grams of fentanyl analogue, second offense: Minimum 20 years, maximum life in prison. If a death or serious injury was involved, life imprisonment. Fine of up to $8 million for an individual and $20 million if not an individual.
- Possession of fentanyl/fentanyl analogue, third of subsequent offense: Life imprisonment.
As you can see, if you are convicted of delivering fentanyl to someone who later dies of an overdose, the penalty is life in prison, even for a first offense.
You may have a defense
You can respond to an accusation of fentanyl sales or trafficking by 1) claiming you are innocent, 2) challenging the admissibility of the evidence, 3) claiming your role was very minor, 4) showing evidence of entrapment by the government, or 5) making other defenses as appropriate in your specific circumstances.
If you believe you will be convicted, there are still ways of avoiding mandatory sentences, in some cases. For example, your sentence might be reduced if you played only a minor role in the trafficking. Also, if you are in the position to provide substantial assistance to the government in the investigation or prosecution of another person’s offense, you could get a “Rule 35” reduction in your sentence.
Whether you have been arrested by the state of Florida or a federal agency, the penalties could be extremely serious. You need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights and work to minimize the damage.