Texas Opioid & Fentanyl Laws
Penalties and punishments for possession, trafficking & distribution of opioids
An opioid and fentanyl epidemic has hit not only Houston, but the entire nation. Thousands are dying, and many are being arrested for opioid possession or manufacturing.
Just how bad is the opioid crisis?
Statistics on opioid abuse
According to the Department of Justice, over 72,000 Americans died due to drug overdoses in 2017 — a steep climb from the 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) reports that most of those drug fatalities were due to opioids, including illicit fentanyl and its analogues.
Texas alone had 1,375 opioid-related drug fatalities in 2016, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
National Public Radio reports that fentanyl overdose deaths have risen 113 percent on average each year between 2013 and 2016.
What is fentanyl?
Also spelled “fentanil,” fentanyl was approved for medical use in 1968 and is among a group of drugs known as synthetic opioids. Fentanyl is used medically to treat chronic pain and is taken via a patch, injection, nasal spray or oral consumption. Fentanyl can also be combined with other drugs for use in anesthesia.
Even when fentanyl is used for legitimate medical reasons, it can cause harm. Defective fentanyl pain patches have harmed thousands of persons, leading to recall of millions of patches and resulting in fentanyl pain patch personal injury lawsuits.
Beyond medical uses, opioids such as fentanyl are also used — and abused — as recreational drugs, and they are highly addictive.
Fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, is often combined with other illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Drug users may even take fentanyl without knowing it when the drug is mixed with other drugs.
“Although synthetic opioids are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, they are also manufactured illegally in clandestine labs and distributed through the illicit drug market,” reports the CDC.
While there are many different kinds of opioids, federal agencies report that synthetic opioid overdose death rates are rising largely due to illicitly manufactured fentanyl and intravenous morphine infusion (IMF).
Demand for Fentanyl Rises in Houston
According to the Houston Police Officers’ Union, “Fentanyl has been growing in a terrifying way in the United States.” It says the rising demand for the drug stems from its high addictiveness and its extreme profits for dealers.
The union also notes that the drug poses perils for investigating officers:
“A very small amount ingested or absorbed through the skin can kill you. The fentanyl epidemic has become perhaps the biggest challenge for police officers and other first responders since it is too toxic to touch. Even attempting to test it could prove deadly.”
Last fall, the U.S. Department of Justice took steps to combat America’s opioid crisis by awarding almost $320 million in grants to various agencies. Most of the money will support crime victims, children, families, and first responders.
Fentanyl Punishments & Penalties
Houstonians who are arrested with fentanyl can face a variety of drug charges, punishments and penalties.
The Texas Controlled Substances Act places fentanyl among the category of drug known as Penalty Group 1, or drugs known to be highly addictive and dangerous.
If you face a fentanyl arrest, the amount of the drug in your possession largely determines the severity of the charge.
Texas drug laws define “possession” as “actual care, custody, control or management” of a drug. For you to be convicted of possessing an illicit drug, the state must prove that you had such actual control of it.
You also can face even harsher federal drugs laws if you are arrested for trafficking or distributing fentanyl. In a federal sense, fentanyl is among drugs known as Schedule I drugs. Like Texas’ Penalty Group 1 drugs, these have a high potential for abuse.
Punishments for trafficking fentanyl can include years to life in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
Defenses Against Fentanyl Charges
When mounting a defense against a drug charge like fentanyl possession, your attorney may start with determining that there isn’t enough evidence for the charge to have been made. In that case, we will fight to get the fentanyl charge against you dismissed. We can also work to have a charge reduced to a lesser offense.
If the case goes to trial, your Houston drug defense lawyer can challenge:
- The amount of the drug allegedly in your possession
- Whether you actually had possession of the drug
- The legality of the search which led to seizing the drug
- The constitutionality of your arrest
For example, the drugs may have belonged to a friend, associate or roommate with whom you shared a space, such as a car or an apartment. That doesn’t mean you were in possession of such drugs.
Also, drugs are often taken by arresting officers after what’s known as an illegal search and seizure. Officers must have probable cause to suspect drugs were in your vehicle before they can search it without your permission and a search warrant. Otherwise, they violate your constitutional rights.
If the prosecution’s case against you is strong, we can also find ways to negotiate a plea bargain agreement in which you plead guilty in exchange for a reduced charge and lighter punishment.
No matter what, we can fight for your legal rights in order to achieve the best possible outcome for you in your fentanyl or opioid case.
Facing a Fentanyl Drug Charge?
Not everyone who was arrested in a fentanyl drug bust is guilty of a possession or distribution charge.
Perhaps they made a one-time mistake. Or perhaps they were spending time with the wrong group of people. Maybe they weren’t aware of which drug they were taking, or maybe an overzealous law officer in a sting operation made an error and netted the wrong suspect.
If you or a family member faces a charge of possession, manufacturing, delivering or trafficking fentanyl or other opioids, contact an experienced Houston drug crime defense lawyer immediately.
The Neal Davis Law Firm is knowledgeable in fighting the fentanyl charges of overreaching authorities, and we can aggressively defend our clients’ legal rights. Contact us today and receive a confidential legal review of your fentanyl case.
Your future — and your freedom — may depend on it.