HB 95 Introduces New Rules About Fentanyl
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid approximately 100 times as strong as morphine and 50 times as strong as heroin, causes more drug overdose deaths than any other controlled substance. It was originally intended for pain management in cancer patients and in emergency situations where injured patients are being transported to hospitals for treatment. Most of the fentanyl on the streets in Florida today has been manufactured illegally and trafficked into Florida from elsewhere, sometimes through online purchases. Fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance, making it legally similar to cocaine, Adderall, hydrocodone, and many other drugs, but its effects are not similar. Of the approximately 100,000 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the United States in 2021, approximately two thirds involved fentanyl. Therefore, Florida has recently enacted a law that specifically targets fentanyl trafficking. If you are facing criminal charges related to the possession or sale of fentanyl, contact a West Palm Beach drug offenses lawyer.
New Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Distribution of Fentanyl
HB 95, which Gov. DeSantis recently signed into law, will go into effect on October 1. The law imposes new mandatory minimum sentences for trafficking in fentanyl. The current minimum sentence for selling at least four but not more than 14 milligrams of fentanyl is three years, but beginning on October 1, it will be seven years. For sale of between 14 and 28 milligrams, the current minimum sentence is 15 years, but when the new law takes effect, it will increase to 20 years.
Prosecutors Can Pursue Murder Charges Related to Fentanyl Overdoses
Pursuant to HB 95, prosecutors will also be able to charge defendants with murder if there is evidence that the defendant was a source of the fentanyl that caused a victim’s fatal overdose. This means that defendants convicted under the new law could face a sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors could even seek the death penalty for defendants convicted of causing fatal overdoses on fentanyl.
Fentanyl Test Strips Still Count as Drug Paraphernalia
Critics of the new law argue that it does not address the fact that most people who suffer fentanyl overdoses are not aware that the drugs they are taking contain fentanyl. They think that the powder they bought is cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin or that the pills that their drug dealer bought online are Adderall or oxycodone. Most people who buy or sell modest quantities of drugs also don’t know whether the mixture contains fentanyl.
Fentanyl test strips, originally designed for forensic use, can be purchased online so that you can know whether the powder in your possession is what the seller told you it was. An earlier draft of HB 95 proposed to decriminalize possession of fentanyl test strips in order to prevent fentanyl overdoses. The version of the bill that passed does not contain this provision, however. Therefore, you can still get misdemeanor charges for possession of drug paraphernalia if the police find fentanyl test strips in your car or residence.
Contact a West Palm Beach Drug Crimes Lawyer Today
A Palm Beach County criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for possession of fentanyl or fentanyl test strips. Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach Florida to discuss your case.