Governor Rick Scott recently passed legislation to try to curb synthetic opioid abuse. The new law provides for mandatory minimum prison sentences for those caught with more than 4 grams of fentanyl or carfentanil, two synthetic opioids that have killed hundreds of users throughout the United States in the past year. It also places fentanyl, carfentanil, and several other synthetic versions of these drugs in Schedule I list of controlled substances. The highlight of the new law, however, provides that drug dealers who sell these types of drugs can face murder charges if their customers overdose and die as a result.
The state already provides for heroin and cocaine suppliers to face felony murder charges for the deaths tied to drugs they sold; but up until now, these new laws did nothing to address dealers selling fentanyl or carfentanil, or a mixture of these synthetics laced with other drugs. In a desperate attempt to try to curb overdose deaths, drug dealers can now be held accountable for these deaths.
Overview of Fentanyl Crisis
Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller that is fifty times stronger than heroin, and 100 times stronger than morphine. Before this law passed, it was included in the Schedule II controlled substances category, as it does contain medical uses for those who have developed a high tolerance for other painkillers, and for cancer patients. Carfentanil, on the other hand, is 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and is used commonly for tranquilizing elephants and large game.
Drug overdose deaths have skyrocketed across the country. A drug overdose is the number one cause of accidental death among the 25-64 age group. More recently, these fatalities are caused by legal prescription drugs. In 2013, over half of all drug overdose deaths were from legal prescriptions.
Today, Florida is in the midst of an opioid epidemic so intense that the governor declared a public health emergency. In 2015, heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone were directly responsible for the deaths of 3,896 Floridians. Palm Beach County morgues were at capacity in 2016 with more than 500 opioid fatalities. Today’s heroin is also commonly laced with fentanyl, which has taken the lives of many unsuspecting heroin users.
Is It Effective to Charge Drug Dealers?
It is natural to want to hold those who make the drugs easily accessible accountable for the many deaths that take place each year, yet charging them with murder outright presents many problems. Charging low-level drug dealers with murder violates their constitutional guarantee to due process by failing to prove that they intentionally ended a life. In many instances, drug dealers have no clue that the last time they sell a drug to a user will be the last time ever. The legal definition of murder also implies planning and intent to kill.
If you face charges for selling or distributing illegal substances speak to a dedicated criminal defense attorney in West Palm Beach before you speak a word about your alleged crimes to authorities. For over 30 years, Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel has dedicated his career to fighting for justice for the criminally accused. Call 561-622-5575 or contact Mr. Gabriel online for a free consultation.