Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) says is similar to morphine, except that it’s 50 to 100 times stronger. It’s a prescription drug that’s used to treat patients who are experiencing an extreme amount of pain or need to have it managed after surgery. It’s also known by the following names:
On the street, fentanyl is often referred to by the following names:
- China Girl
- China White
- Dance Fever
- Murder 8
- Tango and Cash
While fentanyl is a Schedule II controlled substance under federal law, it’s listed in Penalty Group 1 in the State of Texas. It’s considered to be one of the most serious drugs for which a person can face criminal charges. There has been a stronger push to fight fentanyl use, because synthetic opioids have become the most common cause of drug overdose deaths in the country. The NIDA has also reported that 59.8% of opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl in 2017 (compared to 14.3% in 2010).
Types of Fentanyl Crimes in Texas
Like any other drug, you could face a number of criminal charges for fentanyl (depending on the circumstances of your arrest). One of the most important considerations for a fentanyl charge is whether you were involved with actual fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue. According to the Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.002(6), an analogue is any “substance with a chemical structure substantially similar to the chemical structure of a controlled substance in Schedule I or II or Penalty Group 1, 1-A,, or 2-A.” It can also be a substance that has been specifically designed to produce an effect that’s similar to or stronger than the effect of one of these listed substances.
Under the Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.106, prosecution for any offenses related to the manufacturing, delivery, or possession of a controlled substance can include any analogues with a similar chemical structure as a controlled substance that has been listed in an applicable penalty group.
Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.102 includes many types of fentanyl that have been listed under Penalty Group 1, which include the following:
- Fentanyl or alpha-methylfentanyl (including any fentanyy derivative).
For possession crimes, the charges will depend on the amount that was allegedly in your possession. They will typically have the following classifications:
- Less than 1 gram: State Jail Felony.
- 1-4 grams: Third-Degree Felony.
- 4-200 grams: Second-Degree Felony.
- 200-400 grams: First-Degree Felony.
- 400 grams or more: Enhanced First-Degree Felony.
Some defendants can also be accused of possession with intent to distribute. The penalties for these types of offenses can be more severe and will have the following classifications:
- Less than 1 gram: State Jail Felony.
- 1-4 grams: Second-Degree Felony.
- 4-200 grams: First-Degree Felony.
- 200 grams or more: Enhanced First-Degree Felony.
Be sure to speak a qualified attorney for more information.
Penalties for Fentanyl Crimes in Texas
The penalties for any type of fentanyl conviction can be severe and will typically include the following:
- State Jail Felony: Up to two years in State Jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third-Degree Felony: Up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second-Degree Felony: up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- First-Degree Felony: Up to 99 years or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Enhanced first-degree felonies will typically have minimum sentences. Most of them have minimum sentences of up to 10 years in prison, but it can be increased to 20 years if the crime involved serious injury or death. The Health and Safety Code also says that there’s a solid defense toward the prosecution of a fentanyl crime for an analog if it:
- Was a substance for which there is an approved new drug application under Section 505 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U. S. C. Section 355).
- Was a substance for which an exemption for investigational use has been granted under Section 505 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U. S. C. Section 355) and the actor’s conduct with respect to the substance is in accordance with the exemption.
Some fentanyl crimes could also lead to federal charges. The penalties for a federal conviction can be severe, with a first offense involving bodily injury or death resulting in a minimum sentence of 5-40 years in prison. Even if it doesn’t, you could face a minimum prison sentence of 20 years to life. You could also be fined $5 million dollars.
If you have been charged with a fentanyl crime in Texas and are looking for a criminal defense attorney in Corpus Christi to help you with your case, be sure to get in touch with Gale Law Group.