In July, a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh indicted a man formerly of Monaca, PA, for violating federal narcotics law. Martinis Ramon Lee is accused of having possessed with intent to distribute over 100 grams of a substance containing heroin, fentanyl, fluorofentanyl, Schedule I and II narcotics, and a quantity of crack cocaine, a Schedule II drug. Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines, Lee could face a prison sentence of not less than ten years and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.
The nationwide opioid epidemic has led federal and state law enforcement authorities to crack down on the illegal possession, distribution, and misuse of narcotics, particularly fentanyl. The synthetic opiate is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. In 2020, Pennsylvania saw a 16.4 percent rise in overdose opioid deaths and a 6 percent rise in 2021, with fentanyl implicated in the vast majority of cases.
Pennsylvania has taken decisive action in response to this crisis. According to a 2022 report from the state Attorney General's office, the state seized 1.8 million doses of fentanyl in 2021 and a whopping 1.9 million doses of fentanyl in the first three months of 2022 alone. Arrests and prosecutions relating to fentanyl have increased as well.
If you are facing a fentanyl charge or investigation–or any charge related to controlled substances–you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands both federal and state drug laws to protect your interests.
Potential Penalties for a Fentanyl Conviction
A person convicted of a fentanyl-related offense will face severe penalties. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. This categorization means that while it has some authorized purposes, it is a powerful and dangerously addictive drug that requires strict regulation. Certain fentanyl derivatives, such as fluorofentanyl, are classified as a Schedule I controlled substances because they are both highly addictive and serve no legitimate purpose in society.
Under federal law, an individual convicted of illegal possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance for the first time will face up to one year in prison, a minimum fine of $1,000, or both. A second conviction is punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a minimum fine of $2,500.
Penalties become substantially harsher for drug trafficking convictions. An individual's first conviction for trafficking 40 to 399 grams of fentanyl brings a minimum of 5 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million. A person convicted of trafficking over 400 grams of fentanyl will face a minimum 10-year sentence and up to $ 10 million in fines.
The penalties are even more severe for second offenses, the trafficking of a Schedule I fentanyl derivative, or if bodily harm or death arose from the trafficking. For example, a trafficking conviction of only 10 grams of fentanyl analog carries a 5-year minimum prison sentence.
Courts often modify drug federal sentencing guidelines according to the nature of the crime, the type and amount of the drug involved, the defendant's prior criminal history, and other positive contributions the defendant has made to society. For this reason, it's critical to have a skilled lawyer to fight on your behalf.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Fight Fentanyl Drug Charges
Getting arrested for a drug charge is terrifying, but remember that an arrest is not the same as a conviction. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can help raise a strong defense to fight the charges. Common defenses include:
- law enforcement conducted an unlawful search and seizure of the drugs
- law enforcement planted the drugs or entrapped you
- you legally possessed the drug with a valid license or prescription
- you were unaware that the drugs were in your possession
- you had a good-faith belief that the drugs were legal.
The Lento Criminal Defense Team have years of experience defending clients facing serious drug charges, from simple possession to drug trafficking, and we're ready to fight for you. Whether in federal court or state, we have the skill and know-how to help you arrive at the best possible outcome. Contact us today at 888.535.3686 or reach out to us online to evaluate your case and start crafting a robust defense.