Alabama's laws regarding trafficking in fentanyl are severe.
The Alabama threshold for trafficking in fentanyl is a single gram. If you have fentanyl of the same weight as a packet of “Sweet n Low,” you could be convicted of trafficking in fentanyl.
The minimum sentence is 10 years in the state penitentiary, three years of which must be served day for day. The maximum sentence is ninety-nine (99) years or life. Fines for this crime are from $50,000 to $750,000, depending on the quantity of fentanyl.
Compared to other drug trafficking crimes, the amount of fentanyl required to meet the threshold for trafficking is minuscule. Fentanyl is an extremely powerful drug designed to treat chronic pain in cancer patients.
How powerful? It is 50 times more powerful than heroin and 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl is enough to kill most people.
Much of the fentanyl available on the streets is homebrewed. Street names include Apache, China White, Dance Fever, and others.
The folks making homebrewing fentanyl may be smart enough to make a drug that gets you high, but they're dumb enough to make a drug that easily kills. Most likely, because of this drug's potency and danger, Alabama law is severe when it comes to fentanyl.
If you're charged with trafficking fentanyl, you're in deep legal trouble.
So, what kind of defenses do lawyers raise to help an accused in these cases?
The defenses are similar to those raised in any other drug trafficking case and vary with a particular case's facts.
Typically, lawyers will first see if the drugs were discovered illegally by the police. The lawyers will often raise this issue through a suppression motion. There are many kinds of suppression motions, but a lawyer will typically argue that certain evidence, usually the drugs themselves, should not be allowed to be presented in the trial because of some improper action on the part of the police. For example, I had a drug case where my client was factually guilty of possessing the drugs, but because the police made some mistakes, I prevented the drugs from coming into evidence. With no legally admissible evidence of drugs, we won the case.
Another issue common in trafficking cases is if the state can prove the accused knew ("had knowing possession") of the drugs. For example, an automobile is stopped, and a trafficking amount of fentanyl is found in the car and claimed by absolutely none of the vehicle's occupants. The question is, did the accused person have "knowing possession" of the drugs? A jury often decides that issue upon the specific facts of the case.
Other issues come up: where the drugs were correctly tested by the lab and/or properly handled and stored?
Of course, these are not all of the issues. Your lawyer will look at the facts and circumstances and your case and investigate what issues provide for the best defense and resolution for you.
Trafficking cases - because of their severity- have a higher chance of being tried than less serious drug cases. Even so, many trafficking cases resolve without a trial.
There are several reasons for this. Sometimes the prosecutor may offer the accused a plea agreement to a lesser crime without the mandatory prison sentence of a trafficking case. Many people facing time in prison will accept a plea to a lesser crime if it means they avoid being incarcerated.
Almost every trafficking case will have a plea offer made to the accused. The strength or weakness of that offer depends on the case's strength or weakness and other factors, such as your lawyer's negotiating skill.
Whether a case goes to trial is a decision the accused must make; if you are wise, you will do so after consultation with your lawyer.
No matter the circumstances, anyone charged with trafficking needs a competent and experienced lawyer.
If you are charged in North Alabama and you'd like our help, feel free to contact us.