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Fentanyl Possession Charges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania


8/19/2019

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania take drug charges very seriously, especially when it comes to opioids. Both states have made efforts in recent years to divert those with possession charges to treatment programs and other options to avoid incarceration. However, the recent increase in opiate-related overdoses has led to an increase in enforcement and aggressive prosecution in certain cases.

If you’re facing drug charges for fentanyl in either New Jersey or Pennsylvania, you need someone on your side who can navigate our complex criminal justice system. Philadelphia Criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer has the knowledge and experience to get you a fair result. If you’re facing charges and need someone to fight for your rights, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law today at 215-712-1212 to schedule a free consultation.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is commonly used to treat severe pain and is available legally with a valid prescription. It is available under the following brand names:

  • Innovar
  • Duragesic
  • Actiq
  • Fentora
  • Subsys
  • Sublimaze

Unfortunately, the illegal use of fentanyl has skyrocketed in recent years, and now causes more overdose deaths than any other drug. It is extremely addictive and is often mixed with heroin. Illegal fentanyl often goes by the street names, Apache, China White, China Girl, Dance Fever, Tango & Cash, and many others. Because of the high potential for overdose, state and federal legislators have increased enforcement and stiffened penalties related to the use, possession, and distribution of fentanyl.

Possession of Fentanyl in New Jersey

In New Jersey, drugs are categorized according to a schedule and referred to accordingly. Their categorization will then determine the severity of the charges and potential penalties.

  • Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical use. Heroin, ecstasy, and LSD are included in this category
  • Schedule II drugs also are considered to have a high potential for abuse but do have some accepted medical uses with severe restrictions. Cocaine, Morphine, and Vicodin are included in this category.
  • Schedule III drugs are those with less potential for abuse but are not entirely safe. They are commonly prescribed in the medical profession. Codeine and steroids are examples of Schedule III drugs.
  • Schedule IV and V drugs are considered to have a low potential for abuse and are widely used in the medical profession. Over-the-counter drugs are typically considered Schedule V drugs.

Fentanyl is categorized as a Schedule II drug in New Jersey, since it is highly addictive but does have some legitimate medical uses.

Because it is a Schedule II drug, possession of fentanyl is a third-degree crime in New Jersey under S.J.S.A. 2C:35-10. The potential penalties you face will vary according to the amount in your possession at the time of your arrest and other circumstances surrounding your case. If convicted, you will typically face some combination of the following penalties:

  • Probation
  • Fines of up to $35,000
  • A prison sentence of 3 to 5 years

In determining your sentence, the court will consider your prior criminal record and how you came to possess the fentanyl (e.g., did you obtain it with a fraudulent prescription). If you possessed only a small amount and have no prior criminal record, you may be given probation rather than additional jail time.

Distribution of Fentanyl in New Jersey

If it is alleged that you were selling, manufacturing, or otherwise distributing fentanyl, you can be charged with distribution. This is a more serious offense than simple possession. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(4), the distribution of fentanyl is a second-degree crime. As a result, you face the possibility of 5 to 10 years in New Jersey state prison and up to $150,000 in fines.

It’s important to note that you can be charged with distribution even if you didn’t actually sell or distribute fentanyl – it is sufficient to be charged with distribution if the prosecution believes that you intended to distribute it.

Prosecutors will often charge you with distribution if you possess a significant amount of fentanyl, regardless of whether or not you actually intended to distribute it. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you get your distribution charge reduced to a simple possession charge.

It’s also worth noting that under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5b(5), your possession charge can be reduced to a third-degree crime if you possessed less than an ounce. You may be able to avoid time in state prison if you have no prior criminal record.

Possession of Fentanyl in Pennsylvania

Similar to New Jersey, fentanyl is considered a Schedule II controlled substance in Pennsylvania. However, Pennsylvania also categorizes fentanyl derivatives as Schedule I drugs. Possession of a Schedule I or Schedule II drug is a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law. A first offense for possession of fentanyl could result in the following penalties if you are convicted:

  • Up to 1 year in jail;
  • A fine of up to $5,000
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for up to 6 months

These penalties will become harsher for subsequent offenses.

Sale or Distribution of Fentanyl in Pennsylvania

While simple possession is a misdemeanor, the sale or distribution of fentanyl is a felony in Pennsylvania. Charges for the sale or distribution of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance are the most serious drug charges you can face in Pennsylvania. If convicted, you face the following potential penalties:

  • Up to 15 years in prison
  • Fines of up to $250,000

The severity of your sentence will depend on a variety of factors including the amount of fentanyl in your possession, whether there were weapons involved, and whether you have a prior criminal record.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney

A conviction for a single drug charge can do irreparable damage to your future. In addition to possible jail time and heavy fines, a conviction could make it difficult to find employment and result in a permanent criminal record. Don’t leave your future in someone else’s hands – New Jersey and Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer will fight to make sure you get a fair result. If you’d like to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help you, call us at 215-712-1212 or visit us online today.