Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid manufactured by pharmaceutical companies in the United States and abroad. Originally marketed as Sublimaze, it is now dispensed under a variety of trade names, including Duragesic®, Fentora®, and Actiq®. Fentanyl is used as a substitute for morphine to manage pain experienced by cancer patients and other chronic pain sufferers.

In addition, analogs of Fentanyl (which tend to be more potent) are used as an anesthetic during certain surgical procedures. A particularly potent analog is used by veterinarians to immobilize elephants and other large animals.

Legitimate users of Fentanyl commonly ingest it by wearing a patch that permits a controlled dose to be absorbed through the skin. It is also marketed in the form of lozenges and tablets. It is less commonly sold in an injectable form. Because Fentanyl has legitimate medical uses but is perceived as dangerous and subject to serious abuse, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance.

Although it is sometimes manufactured in clandestine laboratories, the precursor chemicals needed to produce the drug are regulated and not easy to obtain. Most Fentanyl that is sold illegally has been stolen from pharmacies, stolen or purchased from patients who obtain it with a prescription, or obtained with forged prescriptions. Used patches are harvested for any remaining drug content.

It is typically ingested by injecting or swallowing the gel content that is removed from patches. Patches are also frozen and the gel content is then cut into pieces that are placed under the tongue, permitting oral absorption of the drug.

Penalties For a Fentanyl Conviction

A federal sentence for distributing (or possessing with intent to distribute) a mixture or substance containing Fentanyl, or for a conspiracy to distribute Fentanyl, depends initially upon whether the drug that was possessed or distributed has the chemical composition of Fentanyl or is an analog.

The sentence applicable to most drug crimes involving Fentanyl depends upon the weight of the mixture or substance containing the drug, whether the defendant has a prior drug conviction under state or federal law, and whether a serious injury or death resulted from use of the distributed drug. Offenses involving larger quantities require the court to impose a mandatory minimum sentence.

  • Less than 40 grams (no injury):
    • First offense:  Maximum sentence of 20 years.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Maximum sentence of 30 years.
  • Less than 40 grams (serious injury or death):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.
  • At least 40 grams but less than 400 grams (no injury):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 5 years, maximum of 40 years.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 10 years, maximum of life.
  • At least 40 gram but less than 400 grams (serious injury or death):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.
  • 400 grams or more (no injury):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 10 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
  • 400 grams or more (serious injury or death):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Maximum of life.

Fentanyl Analog Penalties

The sentence applicable to most crimes involving a Fentanyl analog depends upon the weight of the mixture or substance containing the drug, whether the defendant has a prior drug conviction under state or federal law, and whether a serious injury or death resulted from use of the distributed drug. Offenses involving larger quantities require the court to impose a mandatory minimum sentence.

  • Less than 10 grams (no injury):
    • First offense:  Maximum sentence of 20 years.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Maximum sentence of 30 years.
  • Less than 10 grams (serious injury or death):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.
  • At least 10 grams but less than 100 grams (no injury):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 5 years, maximum of 40 years.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 10 years, maximum of life.
  • At least 10 gram but less than 100 grams (serious injury or death):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of life.
  • 100 grams or more (no injury):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 10 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
  • 100 grams or more (serious injury or death):
    • First offense:  Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
    • Second or subsequent offense:  Maximum of life.

Mitigating Factors For Fentanyl Charges

The maximum penalties described above may increase substantially and different mandatory minimum penalties may apply if:

  • the drug was distributed to a person under the age of 21;
  • the drug was distributed to a pregnant woman;
  • minors were employed to assist in the commission of the offense; or
  • distribution occurred near a protected area.

In addition to a potential prison sentence, fines and costs can be imposed, as well as a term of supervised release.

Sentences For Simple Possession

Simple possession is the term used to describe possession of a drug for personal use, not with the intent to distribute the drug to others. The range of sentences available for simple possession of Fentanyl depends upon whether the defendant has a prior conviction for a drug offense under state or federal law.

  • First offense:  Maximum sentence of one year.
  • Second offense:  Minimum sentence of 15 days, maximum of two years.
  • Third or subsequent offense:  Minimum sentence of 90 days, maximum of three years.

Contact a Lubbock Drug Lawyer Today

If federal authorities have arrested or prosecuted you for a crime involving Fentanyl, contact Hamilton, Hull & Byrd to gain a team of experienced lawyers on your side.