By now, everyone has heard about the “opioid crisis” in the United States. The opioid crises once referred predominantly to oxycodone prescribed legally by physicians that was then abused by patients or addicts who purchased it on the black market. Today, there is another similar drug that has everyone terrified – fentanyl. A Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby explains what fentanyl is, why it is so scary, and what criminal offenses relate to fentanyl in Tennessee.
What’s the Big Deal with Fentanyl?
The United States has been involved in the “War on Drugs” for almost half a century at this point. We’ve dealt with an opioid crisis now for several years, according to law enforcement officials. So, what’s the big deal with fentanyl? Why is it causing such a stir?
To answer those questions, you need to understand what fentanyl is first. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, prescribed in the form of transdermal patches or lozenges, approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What makes fentanyl so unique – and so problematic — is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.
Like other legally manufactured but illegally abused pharmaceutical medications, fentanyl is increasing manufactured illegally, often outside of the United States, because it is cheap and easy to produce. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is then unknowingly mixed into a variety of other illicit drugs. Initially, fentanyl was only mixed into batched of heroin to increase the potency of the heroin; however, authorities are now finding fentanyl mixed in with a wide variety of drugs and/or packaged to look like common snacks. Consider these sobering facts and statistics:
- For the first time in United States history, there was over 100,000 overdose deaths in a 12-month period. Fentanyl is increasingly responsible for the growing number of accidental overdoses. Currently, more than 67% of drug overdoses involve fentanyl.
- The fentanyl category of opioids accounted for 67,325 preventable deaths in 2021, representing a 26% increase over the 53,480 total in 2020.
- Fact pills are often made partially or entirely of fentanyl. The DEA seized more than 9.5 million pills from January to September 2021, more than the two previous years combined.
Tennessee One Pill Will Kill Act
Tennessee recently passed the “One Pill Will Kill” Act and the provisions of the bill took after July 31, 2023. The Act adds fentanyl, carfentanil, remifentanil, alfentanil and thiafentanil to what constitutes a qualifying controlled substance for certain felony offenses. Under current law, it is an offense to manufacture, sell, deliver, or possess controlled substances.
Now, if a controlled substance contains 0.5 grams or more of fentanyl, then the offense will be considered a Class B felony, and the imposed fine can be up to $100,000. Class B felonies carry a possible sentence of eight to 30 years in prison.
Possessing less than 0.5 grams of fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives will be considered a Class C felony, which carries a lesser sentence. However, if the suspect was carrying a deadly weapon during the offense or the offense resulted in death or injury, then it will become a Class B felony.
Drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine already carried the same potential penalties. The One Pill Will Kill Act added fentanyl and similar drugs to the drugs already eligible for those charges and penalties in the hope of discouraging the manufacture, distribution, and use of fentanyl.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a fentanyl related criminal offense in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.
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