According to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) synthetic opioid deaths increased by 74 percent from 2016 to 2017. This is largely related to a surge in fentanyl use, as 91% of all fatalities involved fentanyl.
If fentanyl use is up, so are arrests for it. If you or a loved one has been charged, here are a few things you should know.
What is Fentanyl?
Fentanyl is a prescription pain medication normally given to those with a terminal illness such as cancer. It’s most commonly used as a transdermal patch, and is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Patches can be boiled to extract the fentanyl, and may also be smoked or ingested.
While some prescription fentanyl is misused, the real problem lies with synthetic fentanyl. New fentanyl analogs are constantly being manufactured, many of which also contain quantities of heroin or cocaine.
Carfentanil in particular is especially dangerous. Found in white powder form, it can be up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine and as much as 100 times more potent than fentanyl itself. It’s used in veterinary medicine as an anesthetic for large animals, and is not intended for human consumption. Despite that fact, there has been a surge in carfentanil use over the past few years, resulting in many accidental overdoses.
Penalties for Possession
Section 152.02 of the Minnesota Revised Statutes classifies fentanyl in its various forms as a Schedule I substance. Section 152.025 further spells out the basis for a controlled substance crime in the fifth degree as:
- Unlawfully possessing a Schedule I substance
- Procuring or attempting to procure a controlled substance through fraud
Upon conviction, a controlled substance crime in the fifth degree charge could bring you up to five years in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000.
Problems with Fentanyl Charges
We’ve already mentioned that some forms of fentanyl are extremely potent. This means some users carry only tiny amounts with them.
So if a passenger in your automobile possessed fentanyl, he or she could leave behind traces of the drug that you might not see, but police would notice if you were to be pulled over. The same thing could happen if visitors to your home pulled out a bag and inadvertently left residue behind.
Legal fentanyl patches are sometimes a problem as well. They may stick to your clothing or other objects without you realizing it. Next thing you know, you are trying to explain why you are in possession of fentanyl when in fact you did not even know you were carrying it.
Fighting Fentanyl Charges
If you’re facing fentanyl charges, the first thing to consider is how the evidence was obtained. Did you consent to a search or did the officer have reasonable cause? Was the fentanyl in plain view, or did law enforcement violate the terms of a search warrant in order to find it?
All these things are important to know, and can affect whether or not there were actually grounds for an arrest. According to the fruits of the poisonous tree doctrine, any evidence that was illegally obtained is considered tainted and may therefore not be used in a court of law.
You may be tempted to proclaim your innocence, particularly if your arrest caught you off guard. Even so, you should remember that the burden of proof rests on the state to prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
An experienced St. Paul drug crimes lawyer is needed any time there is a fentanyl arrest. Before making any statements to authorities, please contact us. We’ll ensure your rights are protected and can better advise you how to proceed.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this page does not constitute an attorney client relationship. Be sure to contact our law office to discuss your case with an attorney.