A CNN report cited data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that confirm how deadly the synthetic opioid fentanyl is. The rate of drug overdoses due to fentanyl increased 113% from 2013 to 2016. The percentage of drug overdose fatalities of any kind has increased 54% from 2011 to 2016; 63,632 people died due to drug overdoses in 2016. About 29% of those fatalities (more than 18,000) were due to fentanyl, according to an analysis done by the CDC of death certificates. Fentanyl has replaced oxycodone and heroin as the drug causing the most deaths.
The CDC study showed that most overdoses involved more than one drug. Common combinations of deadly drugs include fentanyl and cocaine and fentanyl and heroin. The use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl does not mean that pain prescriptions are a less dangerous problem. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, stated that in some states, like Oklahoma, prescription opioids are still causing more deaths than heroin or fentanyl.
Fentanyl and other drug offenses in Tennessee
There are several different ways someone can be charged with a drug crime. Manufacturing drugs such as making the synthetic opioid fentanyl is a felony. Possession of non-prescription drugs is a crime – if the drugs are found on your person or in your home or property.
Trafficking drugs is a felony. Trafficking includes dealing in drugs, manufacturing them, selling them, and transporting them. Owning drug paraphernalia such as syringes, scales, and bongs can also lead to criminal drug charges.
Most drug charges will result in Tennessee felony charges. Misdemeanors are limited to possession of drug paraphernalia, simple possession, and other offenses. If trafficking is involved, including one-time sale or delivery, you possess drugs on federal lands, or other conditions apply, federal charges may be brought too. In Tennessee the distribution of heroin and fentanyl can result in charges of at least Class B felonies.
Just one felony charge can mean up to 60 years in prison and a half-million dollars in fines. Any items used to commit the felony such as a car may be seized and sold by the government. Federal crimes are subject to federal sentencing guidelines which can be harsher that state sentences.
Defenses to drug charges
Defenses to drug charges may be available. The government must comply with your Constitutional rights. These include the exclusion of evidence that was improperly seized, the right to cross-examine the witnesses against you, the right to be free from self-incrimination, and the right to a jury trial.
Other defenses are often asserted such as contesting the chain of custody of the evidence. The prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Strong advocates can help show witnesses aren’t credible.
At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, we understand how the opioid epidemic is ruining families. We also understand that prosecutors are aggressive, sometimes too aggressive, in trying to bring charges for drug crimes. For more than 20 years, our Sevierville defense lawyers have been fighting to have drug charges dismissed or reduced. For help with any drug-related criminal charge, please call us at (865) 428-8780 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent defendants accused of drug offenses in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.