Federal prosecutors have charged a 22-year-old Florida man with distribution of fentanyl resulting in death. It is the first time in U.S. history that a defendant has faced federal charges over a fentanyl fatality.
In November 2017, Hillsborough County deputies were dispatched to the scene of a reported opioid overdose and found an unresponsive male victim. Paramedics made several attempts to revive the victim with Narcan, but he died. An autopsy later revealed that his cause of death was a fentanyl overdose.
Over the course of the investigation, detectives discovered that the victim bought the fentanyl from the defendant. He apparently believed he was purchasing heroin, but authorities claim the defendant knowingly sold him fentanyl, which is much more potent, instead. If convicted, the defendant faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Detectives also arrested two other male defendants, ages 27 and 33, as a result of the investigation. The 33-year-old has been charged with five counts of distribution of heroin and fentanyl. He could be sentenced to life in prison. On June 6, the 27-year-old pleaded guilty to distribution of heroin and fentanyl, which will mean up to 30 years in jail.
Federal, state and local authorities are cracking down on fentanyl distribution. As a result, an individual facing fentanyl-related drug charges may benefit from contacting a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Legal counsel could be present during police questioning and make sure a defendant’s rights are protected at all times. An attorney could also dissect the prosecution’s evidence and develop defense strategies to counter the allegations. In cases where the evidence is strong, legal counsel could arrange a plea deal that allows the defendant to plead guilty to reduced charges.