Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used for pain management in palliative care. Due to its ease of availability and the small amount needed to produce the desired effects, fentanyl is commonly used as a recreational drug. Although fentanyl is a prescription drug, it is controlled under Arizona law. Possession without a prescription, sale, and transportation of fentanyl attract severe criminal charges.
The stakes are high for defendants facing charges for fentanyl offenses. Depending on the exact offense and your criminal history, your conviction could result in a lengthy prison sentence and hefty fines. Additionally, the conviction can enter your criminal record and impact your life even after you complete your sentence.
If you or your loved one faces an arrest and charges for a fentanyl offense in Phoenix, AZ, you will benefit from the expert legal guidance we offer at Phoenix Criminal Attorney. Our skilled attorney will help you protect your constitutional rights and build a solid defense to ensure a favorable outcome in your case.
Understanding Fentanyl Crimes in Arizona
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid manufactured to treat severe pain. As a prescription medication, the drug is given to patients after serious surgeries or during palliative care. Like many prescription medications, fentanyl is sometimes produced for recreational purposes. Fentanyl is extremely addictive, and consumption, even in small quantities, can devastate the user.
The drug is easily accessible and manufactured, increasing the state's abuse rate. Under Arizona law, fentanyl is a controlled substance. Therefore, the state regulates the substance's possession, sale, distribution, and use. Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II narcotic, and anyone found possessing the substance could face a wide range of criminal charges.
Simple Possession of Fentanyl
Possession of a controlled substance like fentanyl is a crime under A.R.S. 13-3408. Even in small amounts, possessing fentanyl without a prescription could attract a felony charge. The use of fentanyl can produce severe effects. Therefore, you will be charged with simple possession of the offense if the prosecution can prove that:
- You possessed a usable amount of the substance. Possession is a critical element of a drug crime charge in Arizona. Depending on the circumstances, you could be in direct or constructive possession of the substance. You could also be charged with this offense if you controlled the substance.
- You knew of the substance's presence and nature as a controlled substance. You cannot be found guilty of possessing a controlled substance without knowing its presence and nature. You do not need to have known that the substance was fentanyl for you to be charged with this offense.
Possession of any opioid can attract severe legal consequences. However, if you face charges for fentanyl possession, you could face felony-level penalties. The severity of the penalties for this offense will depend on the quantity of the substance you possess. Additionally, your criminal history could play a critical role in sentencing.
Possession of fentanyl is a class 4 felony. You will face a prison sentence ranging from 1 to 3.75 years if you are convicted of the offense. Sometimes, first-time offenders facing drug possession charges could avoid incarceration through probation or drug treatment. Unfortunately, this does not apply to fentanyl possession.
Possession of Fentanyl with the Intent to Sell
Under A.R.S. 13-3407, possessing a controlled substance for sale is unlawful. You will be found guilty of possession with intent to sell fentanyl if there is evidence of your possession and your knowledge of the drug’s presence.
Another element that the prosecution must prove to obtain a conviction under this statute is your intent to sell the drug. If you face charges for possession of fentanyl for sale, the prosecution will look out for the following signs to prove intent:
- Large quantities of fentanyl.
- Testimony from law enforcement officers who act as undercover buyers.
- Presence of paraphernalia that suggests sale.
You will face a maximum sentence of 12.5 years in prison if you possess fentanyl with the intent to sell it.
Possession of Fentanyl Drug Paraphernalia
A.R.S. 13-3415 makes possessing any form of drug paraphernalia a crime. Under this statute, drug paraphernalia is any item that could be used in processing, manufacturing, packaging, or using a controlled substance. You could be arrested and charged with possession of fentanyl drug paraphernalia even when you do not have the drug in your possession.
However, the prosecution must show that the items found in your possession were intended for fentanyl manufacture or use. Common examples of drug paraphernalia include:
- Tin Foil.
- Glass pipes.
- Water bongs.
Possession of fentanyl paraphernalia could be classified into:
- Actual possession. This is the most straightforward form of possession. Actual possession means that the paraphernalia was on your person.
- Constructive possession. You are in constructive possession of paraphernalia if the item is found within your control. You must know of its existence for the prosecution to assert constructive possession.
- Joint Possession. Joint possession of drug paraphernalia occurs when multiple people are interested in the item. The prosecution can claim joint possession if the item is in a shared location.
Possession of fentanyl paraphernalia is punishable by a prison sentence of 2 to 8.75 years. The intent of your possession will impact your sentencing for this crime.
Manufacture of Fentanyl
Under A.R.S. 13-3406, it is illegal to manufacture a controlled substance. Fentanyl manufacturing may involve compounding or mixing the ingredients for the final product. The initial production of fentanyl aimed to treat chronic pain in surgery and palliative care. However, some people produce the substance for recreation, which is a serious offense.
Illegally manufactured fentanyl is distributed and sold on the streets, increasing instances of abuse and overdose. You could be charged with fentanyl production if you are involved in the actual compounding of the drug or run a manufacturing operation within your home or business premises.
Fentanyl manufacturing is charged as a class 2 felony. The potential penalty for this offense is a prison sentence ranging from 3 to 12.5 years. The nature and severity of your penalties for this offense will vary depending on:
- Quantity of fentanyl you manufactured. Manufacturing large quantities of fentanyl could attract a harsher sentence after a conviction. The amount of fentanyl needed to produce drug effects is very small. Therefore, many people can distribute and abuse large quantities of the substances.
- Your criminal history. The court will consider your prior convictions when determining your sentence for fentanyl manufacturing in Arizona. If you have a prior conviction for the possession, sale, or manufacture of fentanyl or another controlled substance, your sentence will be enhanced.
- Manufacturing fentanyl around minors. Children are a protected group of individuals in Arizona. If you manufacture fentanyl for a child under the age of sixteen, you will face an additional sentence.
You could face state and federal drug manufacturing charges if you manufacture fentanyl for export or trafficking.
Fentanyl Prescription Fraud
Fentanyl is a prescription medication that can be legally administered during surgery. Like morphine, fentanyl is used for chronic pain. However, this drug can also be used for recreation and cause addiction. This could occur when a doctor prescribes the drug in abnormally high amounts or for a prolonged period.
Fentanyl prescription fraud involves using a fake prescription or modifying a prescription to obtain the drug illegally. Prescription fraud could be charged against different individuals, depending on the circumstances.
A doctor or health care practitioner could face prescription fraud charges for prescribing fentanyl to a patient for recreational purposes instead of medical use. A drug user can also face these charges for obtaining the substance with a falsified or forged prescription. Prescription fraud is a class 3 felony. You will be sentenced to a maximum of 8.75 years in state prison.
Drug trafficking under A.R.S. 13-3405 involves transporting controlled substances for sale. Due to the increased number of drugs that enter the State, Arizona's drug trafficking laws are stringent. You will be convicted of fentanyl trafficking if the prosecution in your case can prove that you engaged in the following acts:
- You imported the substance into the country.
- You distributed fentanyl.
- Transportation of fentanyl.
Fentanyl produces devastating health effects on its users. Therefore, a conviction for trafficking the substance can have serious legal consequences. The prosecution will use different forms of evidence to prove your liability under fentanyl trafficking laws. Some of the evidence that could indicate possession with an intent to distribute includes:
- Large sums of money together with the drug.
- Large amounts of fentanyl.
- Communication indicating your intent to sell fentanyl.
- Presence of fentanyl paraphernalia, including bags and scales.
- Financial information that shows the sale.
- Testimony from witnesses.
- Evidence from undercover officers to whom you intended to sell the substance.
Fentanyl trafficking is a felony that attracts a prison sentence of five to twenty years. Additionally, drug trafficking is a felony offense. Therefore, you could face charges in state and federal courts.
A federal conviction for fentanyl smuggling could result in life imprisonment. The court could also impose a fine of up to $5 million. You will need expert legal guidance if you or a loved one faces fentanyl smuggling charges.
Addiction to prescription medications like fentanyl is a serious problem in Arizona. Unlike street drugs obtained from drug dealers, you can obtain fentanyl with a prescription from a licensed practitioner. Most people who need fentanyl are palliative patients seeking pain relief.
Administering fentanyl to a person not undergoing treatment could result in an arrest and charges for administering narcotics. Direct application of fentanyl on another person is a felony punishable by a 3 to 12.5 years sentence.
Legal Defenses Against Charges for Fentanyl Offenses
The consequences of a conviction for possession, sale, or distribution of fentanyl go beyond incarceration and fines. When the conviction enters your record, it could follow you for the rest of your life. Therefore, if you face charges for a fentanyl crime, you must be aggressive to fight the charges. With the insight of a skilled defense lawyer, you could present the following defenses against your charges:
Lack of Knowledge about the Drug
One of the critical elements that the prosecution must prove to secure a conviction for possession or possession to sell fentanyl is knowledge of the drug's presence. You cannot be found guilty of a crime if you did not know the substance was in your possession. This could occur when someone leaves the drug in your vehicle or home without your knowledge.
A conviction for fentanyl offenses has serious legal and collateral consequences. Unfortunately, charges for some of these offenses are based on false allegations. You may be falsely accused of these crimes by someone who attempts to evade liability for their actions or by someone with anger or jealousy towards you.
Another factor that could contribute to false allegations of a fentanyl crime in Arizona is mistakes of fact. If you share a space with another person, you may be arrested and charged with possessing drugs belonging to that person. With insight from your attorney, you can uncover the false allegations and avoid a conviction.
When you are charged with a fentanyl crime, the prosecution must prove all the elements of your specific offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Proving the elements requires the prosecution to present circumstantial evidence, physical evidence, and sometimes witness testimony. An experienced drug crime defense attorney can help you fight your charge by creating doubt in the prosecutor’s evidence.
This could weaken the case against you and increase your chances of avoiding a conviction. A case based on insufficient evidence could be dismissed or result in a lower sentence.
Lack of Intent to Sell
When you face criminal charges for possessing fentanyl for sale, the prosecution must prove that you intended to sell the controlled substance. The sale of a drug involves exchanging it for money or other valuable items. Some factors that could indicate an intent to sell are the quantity, packaging, and presence of paraphernalia.
A conviction for possessing fentanyl with intent to sell is a serious felony. If you prove that you did not intend to sell the substance, you can avoid a conviction for the offense. Instead, the prosecution will lower your charges to simple possession, attracting less serious penalties.
Fentanyl is a prescription medication used to relieve severe pain in palliative patients. If you face charges for possession of the substance, you could argue that you had a medical condition that mandated the use of fentanyl. However, when using this defense, you must prove that you obtained the substance with a valid prescription.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
Investigating fentanyl possession, sale, and transportation may require a search of your property or person to uncover the controlled substance and other evidence. Under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, you are protected from unlawful search and seizure by law enforcement.
A valid warrant must support all searches done by police officers concerning a drug crime. Police officers obtain a search warrant from the court after establishing probable cause for the search. With the increased abuse of fentanyl, law enforcement officers could be tempted to search your property without a valid warrant.
If your case is based on evidence collected in an unlawful search and seizure, you can petition the court to exclude the evidence from your case. For most fentanyl cases, the evidence collected by law enforcement officers is critical to obtaining a conviction. Therefore, its exclusion could make it impossible to secure a conviction.
If police officers induced you to commit a fentanyl crime, you can present entrapment as a defense to your case. When you assert the entrapment defense, you must prove that:
- Law enforcement officers came up with the idea of committing the unlawful acts.
- The officers induced you to commit the crime.
- You were not predisposed to commit the alleged fentanyl crime before the officer’s insight.
Most drug crime charges arise from police undercover and sting operations. Undercover operations do not always equal entrapment. If you have been convicted of a drug crime in the past, your claim of entrapment will not be accepted.
Arizona law protects you from coercion and other tactics that police officers use to persuade you into committing a crime. However, using entrapment to defend your fentanyl offense requires you to admit to committing the offense. This admission may negatively impact the outcome of your case.
Find a Competent Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Near Me
The addictiveness and potency of fentanyl make it one of the most dangerous substances distributed in the United States. For this reason, fentanyl is a controlled substance. You could be arrested and charged for engaging in acts like possessing, transporting, and selling fentanyl. Arizona lawmakers advocate for harsh penalties for individuals found guilty of fentanyl crimes.
A conviction for a fentanyl offense will attract severe penalties, including incarceration, fines, and a criminal record. Fortunately, not all arrests for fentanyl crimes result in convictions. Some cases are based on false accusations, mistakes of fact, or illegal police conduct. With the guidance of a knowledgeable defense lawyer, you can fight to avoid a conviction for these offenses.
Your choice of legal representation as you battle a drug crime charge could make a difference in the outcome of your case. At Phoenix Criminal Attorney, we serve clients seeking legal guidance and representation to navigate their cases in Phoenix, AZ. Call us today at 602-551-8092 to discuss your case.