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Fentanyl-Spiked Drugs Complicate Prosecution

Posted by Doug Murphy | Dec 31, 2021 | 0 Comments

A recent media report out of El Paso (TX) indicates that Mexican drug cartels are spiking meth, heroin, and even marijuana with the opioid fentanyl to more quickly addict users to a dangerous high and subject an unsuspecting user to serious health risks or death. The story highlights how synthetic fentanyl is easy to produce in large quantities and highly addictive, even if also very dangerous. National Center for Health Statistics data shows that about three-quarters of the over 93,000 U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2020 involved opioids like fentanyl.

The Drug Can Make the Difference

Of course, meth, heroin, and fentanyl are all illegal drugs under federal and Texas law, even if all forms of marijuana's active ingredient THC are not. So, what's really the difference? The possibility of ingesting a different illegal drug than the one that the defendant intended to use can lead to more serious charges. Federal and Texas drug laws list drugs on different schedules and penalty groups. Possessing or distributing one drug instead of or in addition to another can increase the drug-crime charge and its potential minimum and maximum penalties. And the difference can be especially large when the spiked drug that the user purportedly didn't intend to ingest is fentanyl. While federal law only makes fentanyl a Schedule II drug, not a top Schedule I drug, Texas Health & Safety Code §481.102 places fentanyl in its top Penalty Group 1.

Knowledge and Intent Also Make a Difference

Yet the defendant's knowledge of what drug the defendant possesses or distributes, and the defendant's intent as to that drug, also matter in drug prosecutions. Federal and Texas drug laws generally require that the defendant intend to possess or distribute the drug. If, for example, the defendant honestly believed that the defendant was only sharing innocent baby powder with a friend rather than a scheduled drug, the defendant probably wouldn't have committed a drug crime even if the substance was an illegal drug. Likewise, the defendant who intended only to ingest marijuana but who also ingested fentanyl secretly laced into the marijuana by a nefarious dealer probably wouldn't be committing the serious fentanyl possession crime. The defendant's only problem would be proving that the defendant didn't know of the fentanyl. In short, ignorance can be a defense, although prosecutors, judges, and juries can be suspicious of claims of ignorance.

Retain an Expert Texas Criminal Defense Attorney

Finding out that you unintentionally ingested a dangerous and highly addictive illegal drug would be terribly frightening. Getting charged with a more serious crime based on that secret drug would be even more frightening. If you face or expect to face a serious drug charge, then you need expert defense. Premier Texas criminal defense attorney Doug Murphy is available for your expert representation. Attorney Murphy has such an outstanding reputation that he lectures nationwide for other lawyers improving their own criminal defense skills. Attorney Murphy's fellow lawyers also voted him Best Lawyers in America's 2021 Lawyer of the Year. Attorney Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers holding both Criminal Law Certification and DWI Board Certification. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm online or at (713) 229-8333 today for your drug charge defense.

About the Author

Doug Murphy

Doug Murphy is one of only two Texas lawyers Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and also in DWI Defense by the National College for DUI Defense, accredited by the American Bar Association and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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