Fentanyl Possession is a Felony Charge in North Carolina

Drug overdose death has increased significantly in the last few years, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. In 2020, the department announced that an average of North Carolinians died daily from a drug overdose, an increase of 40% from the previous year. As more North Carolina residents struggle with addiction to fentanyl, law enforcement continues to make a rest for fentanyl possession and distribution. The North Carolina legislature passed a bill that went into effect on December 1st, 2021. The bill made fentanyl possession in any amount a felony.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is synthetic and has similar properties to morphine. Fentanyl is much more dangerous than other types of opioids as it is 100 times more potent and up to 50 times stronger than heroin. Pharmaceutical fentanyl is administered to patients experiencing severe pain and is used after major surgery or to relieve patients with late-stage cancer. Fentanyl is highly regulated because it is so deadly. Illegally manufactured fentanyl is responsible for most fentanyl-related overdoses in North Carolina and throughout the United States.

Illegally manufactured fentanyl is made in powder and liquid form. Fentanyl is cheap to manufacture and creates drugs that are addictive and powerful. As fentanyl is so easy to make illegally, it can be mixed with other drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin. Fentanyl can also be pressed into pills that look nearly identical to other prescription opioids. In many cases, people are unaware they are taking a drug laced with fentanyl, making an overdose much more likely.

Criminal Charges for Fentanyl Possession and Distribution in North Carolina

Before December 1, 2021, fentanyl and carfentanil were classified as scheduled controlled substances according to the North Carolina General Statute 90-90(2)(E) and (H). As a result, possession of fentanyl in a quantity of fewer than four grams and fewer than 100 doses used to be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possession of fentanyl and this quantity carried a penalty of up to 120 days in jail.

However, Session Law 2021-155, Senate Bill 321, revised North Carolina's Controlled Substances Act. Consequently, fentanyl and carfentanil, including their esters, salts, and isomers, are still classified as Schedule II controlled substances. However, possession of these substances in any amount is now punishable as a Class I felony.

Distribution of Fentanyl in North Carolina

Anyone who “sells, manufactures, delivers, transports, or possesses four grams or more” of fentanyl can be charged with drug trafficking. Those found with 4 to 13.9 grams will face Class F felony charges. Those found with 14 to 27.9 grams will face Class E felony charges. Finally, those found with 28 grams or more will face class C felony charges with a minimum prison sentence of 225 months.

Federal Criminal Charges Related to Fentanyl

In North Carolina, defendants face severe penalties for fentanyl possession and drug trafficking. These crimes are also a violation of federal controlled substance laws. The Department of Justice can decide to take cases from the state of North Carolina and try defendants in Federal Criminal courts, especially if the crime crosses state lines. If you believe that the FBI or DEA is investigating you, it is crucial that you speak to an experienced attorney.

You could be charged with serious federal crimes. For example, if you have less than 40 grams of fentanyl or 10 grams of fentanyl analog, the penalty will vary according to your other charges. However, those with 40 grams or more of fentanyl or 10 grams or more of analog will face a minimum charge of five years in federal prison. Additionally, you are more likely to be charged with drug trafficking at the federal level. You can face these serious charges if you have any amount of fentanyl or its analog over four grams.

Discuss Your Case With a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

Fentanyl pills may look like other types of substances, and many people are arrested for fentanyl possession who did not even know that they were in possession of fentanyl. In other cases, the fentanyl belongs to a roommate or someone other than the person charged. Whatever the circumstances of your case, you will benefit from discussing it with an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, are prepared to protect your rights if you have been falsely accused of possession of fentanyl. Do not hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.