Fentanyl Crimes in Arizona: Possession and Trafficking
Fentanyl is a deadly illicit substance that causes serious, often fatal, overdoses. The U.S. Centers For Disease Control (CDC) calculated that fentanyl deaths have risen by more than 200% from 2015 to 2021. It’s of grave concern to many Arizona communities.
With fentanyl crimes on the rise, Arizona lawmakers and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration advocate for a harsh penalty for them. The Law Offices of Brandon White can answer your questions about fentanyl. We are here when you need criminal defense from an experienced Arizona drug crimes lawyer.
What Is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a synthetically produced opioid used for pain management and palliative care. It’s similar to morphine or oxycodone but, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, can be 50 to 100 more potent than oxycodone.
Like other opioids, fentanyl is also produced for recreational use and, as a controlled substance, is distributed illegally. Its potency and addictiveness have made it the most deadly narcotic distributed in the U.S., as the potential for overdose is higher than other types of opioids. It’s fairly easy to manufacture and comes in several forms, including:
This makes it harder for the Drug Enforcement Administration to track.
Why Is Fentanyl Addiction So Dangerous?
As with other opioids, it's extremely addictive. It’s also very potent, so users only need a small amount to achieve the same “high” they’re accustomed to from other opiates. And just like other opiates, users can build up a tolerance over time.
People who are used to using heroin, oxycodone, or another opiate may overestimate how much to take, leading to an increase in overdose from the substance.
The ease of manufacturing the narcotic means that it can be quickly distributed to users. Its accessibility, low cost for users, and ease of administration have made it more popular than heroin or oxycodone. Unfortunately, all the “benefits" for users also make it much more deadly, and a person who is not used to it can easily misjudge the amount they use and suffer a fatal overdose.
Arizona Fentanyl Abuse Statistics
In 2021, the number of overdose deaths numbered 110,000, with 70,000-80,000 being fentanyl-related. The CDC noted several alarming statistics about fentanyl:
- Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids (including fentanyl) increased more than 18 times between 2013 and 2020;
- From 2019 to 2020, fentanyl deaths increased by 56%;
- More than 56,000 people died in the U.S. in 2020 because of the narcotic;
- Illicit fentanyl-like substances led to a 30% increase in narcotic overdoses from 2019 to 2020;
- The same substances led to a 15% increase in fatal overdoses from 2020 to 2021.
These concerning overdose rates have made Arizona police harsh on fentanyl-related crimes; if you've been arrested, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney.
Factors Increasing Fentanyl Addiction in Arizona
Use has increased for three main reasons:
- It’s easy to make;
- It only requires a small amount to get high;
- It’s available in many forms/easy to distribute.
The substance acts on the opioid receptors in the brain, giving a similar “high” as that of morphine or synthetic opioids. It’s highly addictive, which means that casual opioid users may quickly become habitual, addicted users.
The potency of fentanyl is one of the reasons overdoses have increased. Users accustomed to the lower potency level of other substances mistakenly believe they need the same amount of the substance for the same results.
Synthetic fentanyl made for illicit distribution isn’t regulated, unlike the version used in a healthcare setting and for prescription use, which is regulated by the FDA. So, there’s no way to tell how potent a dose is. The active ingredients may be present in different ratios from dose to dose.
It's also often mixed with other drugs, from marijuana to cocaine or methamphetamine. People using those drugs may not realize they’ve been dosed, which can be extremely dangerous.
What Are the Penalties for Fentanyl Crimes in Arizona?
Penalties for these crimes in Arizona depend on the type of charge, whether the person has a prior criminal record, and some other factors, such as whether it’s considered an aggravated crime.
Fentanyl-related criminal drug charges are almost always a felony and include:
- Possession with intent to sell
Arizona House Bill 2241 sets a much harsher penalty for people convicted of crimes involving Schedule 1 drug - dangerous narcotics like fentanyl or similar synthetic substances. First offenses mean a prison term of 5 to 15 years, with subsequent offenses landing defendants up to 20 years in prison.
Furthermore, Arizona law prohibits a suspended sentence or probation for people convicted of fentanyl-related crimes.
Fentanyl Simple Possession
First-time offenders for drug possession are charged with a Class 4 felony, which carries jail time of 1 to 3.75 years. Some first-time drug possession offenders may receive probation instead. Your attorney will work to achieve the best possible outcome for you.
Some simple possession penalties can include 360 hours of drug rehabilitation and substance abuse counseling. If you’re facing possession of fentanyl charges, a criminal defense drug possession attorney can help - call us for a consultation.
Fentanyl Possession with Intent to Sell
In Arizona, possession with intent to sell fentanyl is a Class 2 felony. Penalties include a jail sentence between three and 12.5 years. Possession with intent to sell is more serious than simple possession, so call an attorney.
Possession of Fentanyl Drug Paraphernalia
Possession of paraphernalia for fentanyl manufacturing, such as chemicals, equipment, or other materials, is a Class 3 felony in Arizona. Possession penalties for this include a minimum jail term of 3.5 years, although the actual penalty may range from 2 to 8.75 years, depending on the circumstances.
Manufacturing narcotics, including fentanyl, is a Class 2 felony in Arizona, with a jail sentence of 3 to 12 years. Some people may face federal penalties as well.
Fentanyl Drug Trafficking
Arizona’s position as a border state with Mexico makes it a common avenue for narcotics smuggling. In most cases, drug smuggling charges in Arizona are Class 2 felonies, with jail terms of 3 to 12.5 years. But if the drug in question is fentanyl, the sentence increases to 5 to 20 years.
The possession of large amounts of an illicit substance like fentanyl may land you a felony distribution charge, even if you didn’t intend to traffic drugs.
Drug smuggling is also a federal crime, so you may face both a state and federal penalty. Federal penalties for cross-border distribution include fines of up to $5 million and a life term in prison.
With such serious penalties, if you’re arrested for felony fentanyl smuggling, only a skilled criminal defense attorney in Arizona with state and federal criminal defense experience may be able to help at trial. Call a drug crimes lawyer for help with drug trafficking charges.
Administering a Narcotic Drug
Administering a narcotic drug, which means direct application to someone else, is a Class 2 felony in Arizona, with a penalty of 3 to 12.5 years incarcerated.
Fentanyl Prescription Fraud
Prescription fraud, defined in Arizona as procuring or obtaining a narcotic drug by misrepresentation or fraud, is a Class 3 felony. The penalty for this is 2 to 8.75 years in prison.
Sentences for Over-Threshold Amounts
Fentanyl offenses in Arizona carry stiff penalties. The state’s sentencing guidelines have ranges for different classifications of drug crimes:
Transporting fentanyl for sale over the threshold presumptive amount means a mandatory amount of time incarcerated, even for first-time offenders. Transporting for sale is a Class 2 felony, which carries a prison term of 2 to 12.5 years.
Possible Defenses to Fentanyl Crimes Charges
If you’ve been charged with any drug offense and fentanyl is involved, you stand to lose years or even decades of your freedom. A felony also stays on your record for the rest of your life, so even after you're convicted at trial, you could still experience the repercussions of your conviction.
An experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney can help defend you against harsh penalties for a fentanyl-related crime. Your attorney may use one or more of these three common narcotics crimes defenses:
- You did not know about narcotics in your home or car, so you could not have intended to do anything with it (commit the offense you were charged with);
- There was no probable cause for the warrant, search, or arrest;
- You were not properly advised of your Miranda rights on your arrest, and therefore anything you said would be inadmissible in your case.
Your defense attorney may question the circumstances surrounding your arrest. For example, did the officer have a valid reason for a traffic stop? Was there a warrant to search your home or car? What were the grounds for the warrant?
Additionally, your criminal defense lawyer may consider whether you were a victim of police entrapment, in which you were persuaded to commit a crime that you otherwise wouldn’t.
Are There Any Restrictions After Release?
After your jail term for a felony conviction, you may not enjoy the same freedoms and privileges you had before your conviction. As a convicted felon, you're forbidden from owning a firearm and certain other types of weapons.
Other rights you will not have to include the right to:
- Vote in state or federal elections;
- Enlist in the military;
- Hold public office;
- Serve on a jury;
- Hold certain professional licenses;
- Hold a commercial driver’s license.
You may also have trouble getting a job, as many employers are wary of hiring someone with a felony conviction. Landlords, too, may not rent to someone with a felony narcotics conviction.
What’s Arizona Doing to Reduce Fentanyl Crimes?
Arizona lawmakers are imposing harsh penalties for fentanyl and other narcotics crimes. Police officers are increasing the number of stops, searches, seizures, and arrests, due to a state mandate to reduce the number of overdoses and help those with opioid addiction.
To help reduce the number of overdoses, the state passed Arizona Senate Bill 1486, signed into law in May 2021. It excludes possession of fentanyl testing products from criminalized drug paraphernalia, with the intent to help those addicted to the substance at least discern whether they’re taking a synthetic version and so avoid accidental overdose.
Wrongfully Charged with a Fentanyl Drug Crime?
Have you been wrongfully arrested for fentanyl-related drug crimes in Arizona? We can help! Our Team of experienced criminal defense attorneys from The Law Offices of Brandon White can fight for your life and rights and protect people who have been wrongfully charged.
If you believe your rights were violated, you had no knowledge of the presence of the drugs, or you feel you were the victim of entrapment or an illegal search, contact us for a consultation today.
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