Methadone is a synthetic opioid. It is commonly prescribed to patients who are overcoming an addiction to heroin or other narcotic drugs. Methadone relieves the symptoms of heroin withdrawal by providing similar pharmaceutical effects, but is generally safer than heroin because, ingested in tablet form (Methadose®), a controlled dose is released over time. Methadone is also prescribed for the relief of moderate to severe ongoing pain, particularly for cancer patients. It is marketed for that purpose as Dolophine®.
Illicit users and dealers generally acquire methadone by stealing it from pharmacies or clinics, by using forged prescriptions, or by purchasing it from patients who have legitimate prescriptions. Since methadone has accepted medical uses but is perceived as subject to serious abuse, it is listed as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Penalties for Methadone Offenses
A federal sentence for distributing (or possessing with intent to distribute) methadone, or for conspiracy to distribute methadone, depends upon 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. If serious injury or death results from the distribution of methadone, a mandatory minimum penalty applies.
- No injury
- First offense: Maximum sentence of 20 years.
- Second or subsequent offense: Maximum sentence of 30 years.
- Serious injury or death:
- First offense: Minimum sentence of 20 years, maximum of life.
- Second or subsequent offense: Minimum sentence of life.
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.
Methadone Simple Possession Penalties
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 methadone 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.
Consult With a Lawyer Today
Federal crimes involving methadone, like other federal drug charges, carry the potential for serious penalties. To make sure you receive a skilled and aggressive defense, contact the defense attorneys at Hamilton, Hull & Byrd.