Understanding Fentanyl Crimes in Tennessee

Like many states, Tennessee is struggling to combat the devastating impact of opioids, particularly fentanyl, on individuals and families. While fentanyl has long been a player in the opioid crisis gripping the nation, it is now ubiquitous. In response to the increasing prevalence of fentanyl-related deaths and overdoses, Tennessee has implemented new laws aimed at curbing its illicit distribution and use. A Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby helps you understand fentanyl crimes in



What Is Fentanyl?

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is “a potent synthetic opioid drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as an analgesic (pain relief) and anesthetic. It is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin as an analgesic.” There are two types of fentanyl: pharmaceutical fentanyl and illegally manufactured fentanyl. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is inherently dangerous given its potency, but illegally manufactured fentanyl poses an even greater risk to users and the public because there is no quality control, meaning there is no way to know how potent the drug is. 

Does Tennessee Have a Fentanyl Problem?

Sadly, no state is immune from the opioid crisis in the United States. The State of Tennessee is experiencing epidemic levels of addiction, overdose, and death, with approximately 70,000 Tennesseans addicted to opioids, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). Tennessee ranks third in the country for prescription drug abuse and fentanyl case submissions to TBI Crime Labs have increased at an alarming rate, soaring from three submissions in 2012 to 1,550 in 2019.

While all opioids contribute to the “opioid crisis” across the country, fentanyl is particularly troubling because it is cheap to manufacture, highly addictive, and extremely potent. Unlike heroin, fentanyl is also legally manufactured and prescribed. Consequently, it is easy to find fake fentanyl pills on the streets. Fentanyl is also increasingly found mixed in with other street drugs, such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and even marijuana. Users, therefore, may not know what they are getting when they purchase illegal drugs.

Tennessee Fentanyl Crimes: The One Pill Will Kill Act

It has long been a crime to manufacture, sell, deliver, or possess a controlled substance under both the laws of the State of Tennessee and those of the United States. In an effort to combat the growing fentanyl crisis, Tennessee passed the ‘One Pill Will Kill Act’ in 2023 which is now codified in Tenn. Code § 39-17-417

The new law adds fentanyl, carfentanil, remifentanil, alfentanil and thiafentanil to what constitutes a qualifying “controlled substance” for certain felony offenses. Under the new law, ff the controlled substance contains 0.5 grams or more of fentanyl, then the offense is considered a Class B felony. A conviction for a Class B felony in Tennessee carries a potential term of imprisonment of 8 to 30 years and/or a fine of up to $100,000. Possessing less than 0.5 grams of fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives is a Class C felony, punishable by 3 to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000 if convicted. 

When a firearm is involved or when serious injury or death occurs, fentanyl charges can be aggravated with a corresponding increase to potential penalties if convicted. Moreover, given the potent and unpredictable nature of fentanyl, officials are increasingly charging fentanyl dealers with crimes related to unintentional overdose deaths. A Kingsport, Tennessee man was recently sentenced to life in prison for his role in the unintentional overdose death of a 52-year-old woman. A TBI investigation showed that the defendant supplied the fentanyl that resulted in the victim’s death and had the defendant had distributed the fentanyl through a series of lower-level dealers and users. 

Contact a Murfreesboro Drug Defense Lawyer 

If you are facing criminal charges related to fentanyl in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro drug defense lawyer at Bennett | Michael | Hornsby as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.


Stan Bennett