By: Mark Diaz
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What To Know About Fentanyl As Galveston County Overdose Deaths Soar
Fentanyl overdoses are plaguing the country, and this nationwide problem has also become a local problem here in Galveston County. Learn about the area’s many fentanyl problems in this article, and talk to our Galveston County drug crime attorneys if you have been charged with a drug crime.
Galveston County #2 Nationally For Drug Overdose Deaths
The Galveston County Daily News reported in January 2023 that Galveston County had the #2 highest drug overdose death rate in Texas, and fentanyl was likely the leading cause. In 2020, about 200 per 100,000 residents died from drug overdoses. Orange County has the highest rate of fatalities and came in at the #1 spot, despite having a smaller population than Galveston County with only 86,000 residents in 2020. Of Orange County’s population in 2020, there were 315 fatalities per 100,000 persons who died from drug overdoses.
What Is Fentanyl?
Most people have heard about fentanyl in the news, but what is it? It is a synthetic opioid that may be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and up to 100 times more potent than morphine. There is pharmaceutical fentanyl and illegally manufactured fentanyl, with the latter being most of the overdose problem.
The illicit version of the drug is made in the laboratory from chemicals that are mostly imported from China. Fentanyl is relatively easy to make, and most of what is in the US is manufactured in Mexico. It is usually made in illegal labs south of the border and may be mixed with other drugs to make them more potent. They are manufactured illegally, so there is no quality control, and many pills that look like legitimate pharmaceuticals contain deadly fentanyl doses.
The reason there are so many drug overdoses involving fentanyl is it takes very little to kill a human being. A lethal dose of the drug is only 2 milligrams, which is the equivalent of about 10 salt grains. Also, the article from the Galveston County Daily News stated that the amount of fentanyl similar to the powder required in a sweetener packet could kill up to 800 people.
According to the DEA, 42% of the pills it tests for the drug contain enough fentanyl to be deadly. Another serious problem is some fentanyl pills come in bright colors that may look like candy, meaning tempting for a child to try.
How Does Fentanyl Kill People?
If someone overdoses on fentanyl, they often can die from hypoxia and respiratory depression. Hypoxia is when there is not enough oxygen in the blood, which can damage the organs or make them shut down entirely. Respiratory depression means slowed breathing that can be deadly if severe enough.
How long fentanyl takes to kill a person depends on several factors. If the person takes the drug orally, it can take longer to have deadly effects. But if the drug is injected, it can kill within minutes. In many cases, respiratory depression leads to low oxygen levels that the person expires in a few minutes.
A recent tragic case in Houston highlights how quickly a fentanyl overdose can become deadly. A young man in his early 20’s overdosed on the drug in his bedroom in his parent’s Montgomery County home. A friend with him did not realize the seriousness of the situation and did not call 911, possibly fearing that he would get a drug possession charge.
Instead, his friend left a message with a friend, mentioning Ethan’s condition. It took an hour for the person to hear the message, and she dialed 911, but the young man had already died. He was 22 years old.
Providing Someone With A Deadly Fentanyl Dose May Lead To Murder Charges
The fentanyl problem in Texas has gotten the attention of the governor and legislature. The Texas Tribune reported in May 2023 that the Texas House and Senate recently approved a bill that would classify fatal overdoses as poisonings. This means that defendants could face a murder charge.
Supporters of the bill say that increasing penalties for people causing the overdoses could give Texas law enforcement additional tools to hold drug dealers accountable. Between 2019 and 2021, fentanyl overdose deaths in Texas increased by 400%, with more than 5,000 fatalities.
Governor Greg Abbott has made fighting opioid overdose deaths a vital part of the current legislative session. A companion bill in the Senate also could enhance penalties for selling and producing fentanyl.
What Are The Penalties For Possessing Fentanyl In Texas?
Fentanyl is a Group 1 controlled substance in the Controlled Substances Act, with the highest penalties of all drug classes. As with any drug, you can face many severe penalties for possession of fentanyl, depending on the amount and other factors:
- Possessing under 1 gram: State jail felony with 180 days to two years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Possessing 1-4 grams: Third-degree felony with 2 to 10 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Possessing 4-200 grams: Second-degree felony with 2 to 10 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Possessing 200-400 grams: Second-degree felony with 2 to 20 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine.
- Possessing less than 400 grams: possible life in prison; with up to 15-99 years in prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.
However, if you are caught trafficking fentanyl, you face even more severe punishments.
Also, the state has enhanced penalties if you possess an illegal drug in a drug-free zone, such as near a school. The penalty may be increased by one offense level.
What Are Defenses To Fentanyl Possession Charges?
When you are charged with fentanyl possession, it is a difficult situation. But there are several possible defenses that your criminal defense attorney can explore:
Lack Of Possession or Knowledge
To be convicted of a drug possession crime, the state must prove that you had possession or constructive possession. This means that you had the drugs on you or in your control and knew what they were. If the state prosecutor cannot prove that you possessed or had knowledge, you could have the charge dismissed. For instance, your attorney could argue that you thought the fentanyl was some other substance other than fentanyl and you had no idea it actually was fentanyl.
Illegal Search And Seizure
Even with a serious drug charge, if your attorney shows that the police violated your rights during the arrest, the charge could be thrown out. Any evidence they collect in an illegal search is inadmissible in court.
Common Questions About Drug Possession Charges
If you have been charged with a drug crime, such as fentanyl possession, you may have many questions. Here are some of the most common:
What Penalties Can You Get For A Drug Possession Charge?
There are six controlled substance penalty groups in Texas, with those in Penalty Group 1 having the harshest punishments. If you possess a small amount of marijuana, you probably will only be charged with a misdemeanor. But being accused with any amount of fentanyl will result in a felony charge.
Should I Talk To The Police When I Am Charged With A Drug Crime?
The best policy when dealing with a fentanyl possession charge is to say as little as possible to the police. Remember, you have the right to remain silent when you are arrested; being silent cannot be used against you. It is common for someone to be nervous when arrested and say something that damages their case.
Is A Felony Charge More Serious Than A Misdemeanor?
Yes. A misdemeanor usually is a crime that cannot result in more than a year in jail. A crime punished by more than a year in jail is usually a felony. When you are charged with fentanyl possession or trafficking, it is a felony charge, so you should hire the best attorney possible.
Can The Prosecutor Drop A Fentanyl Possession Charge?
Yes, any drug charge can be dropped at any time for many reasons. It is possible for a case to be dismissed and for a felony charge to be dropped to a misdemeanor. Much depends on the case circumstance and the skill of your attorney.
How Long Can A Drug Conviction Stay On Your Record?
If you are convicted on any drug charge in Texas, it can stay on your record indefinitely, which usually means forever. However, some outcomes will not necessarily result in a conviction in your record. The bottom line is you need to do everything you can to avoid a fentanyl charge or other drug conviction on your record, or it could stay there forever.
Can You Lose Your Driver’s License For A Drug Conviction?
If you are under 21, your driver’s license can be suspended for a year for a drug possession conviction. If you are over 21, a drug conviction can lead to a six-month driver’s license suspension.
Contact Our Galveston County Drug Crime Attorneys Today
If you have been charged with a crime involving fentanyl, you could get years in prison. But with the help of an attorney, you have the best chance for a favorable outcome. Our Galveston County drug crime attorneys will defend your rights, so please call Mark Diaz & Associates at (409) 515-6170.