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Bill gives border agents more fentanyl screening equipment

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Florida can expect to receive chemical screening devices to help stop incoming shipments of fentanyl. Congress recently passed a bill that assigns money to support federal agents' mission to detect the powerful synthetic opioid. The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act awaits the president's signature.

Fentanyl possesses an opiate potency as much as 50 times higher than heroin. Compared to morphine, fentanyl can be 100 times stronger. Most illicit fentanyl or chemically similar compounds reaching the United States come through the mail or couriers from Mexico or China. Due to the strength of the drug, smugglers only need to move small amounts at a time, which limits authorities' ability to find it.

Once the new act becomes law, $15 million will become available for the purchase of laboratory equipment, screening devices, facilities and scientific personnel to analyze substances. Agents will deploy portable chemical detection equipment at ports of entry and shipping facilities.

With so much attention fixed on the opioid crisis afflicting the nation, a person charged with possession or distribution of fentanyl could face harsh criminal penalties. An attorney familiar with drug charges may offer representation that challenges claims made by law enforcement. An attorney might scrutinize the actions of law enforcement in regards to evidence collection. An unlawful search and seizure or any possibility that the substance did not belong to the person may aid an attorney during negotiations with a prosecutor. Such an effort might cause a prosecutor to reduce or drop charges, possibly leading to a plea deal with a lenient sentence. Alternatively, an attorney might defend the person's position at trial if a plea deal does not present an acceptable option.

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