On paper, fentanyl is a medical miracle. Like other synthetic opioids, it is stronger than traditional opiates manufactured with the latex of opium poppies. It is cheaper to produce and easier to keep in stock at hospitals and pharmacies. This drug and others like it make it easier to control patients’ pain, which can be key to their best long-term prognosis.
Unfortunately, the strength of the drug combined with the ease of manufacturing it has made it a scourge. People become addicted to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids very easily. They can also overdose. Texas sees an average of five fentanyl-related overdoses every day. The scope of fentanyl addiction has forced the state government to act. Lawmakers recently passed a bill increasing fentanyl penalties, and the governor signed that bill into law.
How did the state increase the penalties possible?
Those who deliver fentanyl to others can face enhanced penalties under the new law. Even possession of larger amounts could lead to more serious charges and penalties. Low-level manufacturing and trafficking charges involving less than one gram of fentanyl will go from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony offense.
Someone caught with between 200 and 400 grams of fentanyl will face first-degree felony charges. The charge carried a 10-year minimum prison sentence but could result in up to life in prison, as well as $100,000 in fines. If the amount in someone’s possession is more than 400 grams, the mandatory minimum sentence increases to 15 years, while the fine goes up to $250,000.
Those implicated in an overdose case could face murder charges. People who manufacture or deliver fentanyl in a situation related to an overdose could face second-degree felony charges. If a toxicology report after someone’s hospitalization or death shows fentanyl in their body, that may trigger an investigation that leads to the prosecution of the individuals who manufactured or distributed the drugs they consumed.
Even situations involving fentanyl contamination in other drugs could lead to someone’s prosecution for a fentanyl offense in Texas. Fighting back against Texas drug charges at a criminal trial may be one of the only ways to avoid the increasingly harsh penalties assessed for controlled substance violations involving this particular drug.