In recent years, fentanyl has increasingly been blamed for the “opioid crisis” in the United States. Although fentanyl can be legally prescribed and used to treat pain, it has been described as “the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered” by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Administrator Anne Milgram. As a result, both state and federal law enforcement agencies aggressively investigate doctors suspected of violating state or federal laws that regulate their ability to prescribe controlled substances such as fentanyl.
If you are a doctor who believes or knows you are being investigated for illegally prescribing fentanyl or who has been charged with a criminal offense involving fentanyl, it is important to get expert legal help from an experienced Florida doctor defense lawyer as soon as possible. Having an experienced attorney intervene on your behalf as early as possible is in your best interest; getting immediate help after charges have been filed is crucial for protecting your rights and your future.
Attorney Jonathan Rose has the experience, resources, and commitment needed to protect and defend you, your reputation, and your future, if you are a physician facing state or federal charges related to prescribing fentanyl. He has more than twenty years of experience as a lawyer and has focused his practice on healthcare and defense law. As a former Marine and prosecutor, he knows how to navigate complex defense cases and mount a powerful defense to protect your interests.
Why Have Fentanyl-Related Investigations Increased?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pharmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid approved for treating chronic or severe pain. Fentanyl is a Schedule II substance that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. When prescribed legally by a physician, fentanyl comes in the form of a shot, a transdermal patch or a lozenge.
Unfortunately, fentanyl is also manufactured and distributed illegally in the United States. “Street” fentanyl is often mixed (knowingly or unknowingly) with heroin and/or cocaine to increase its euphoric effects. The rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, increased by over 56 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to the CDC. Moreover, the number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2020 was more than 18 times the number in 2013, making synthetic opioids the most common drugs involved in drug overdose deaths in the United States.
As a result of the increase in fentanyl-related deaths, law enforcement agencies across the country have bolstered their efforts to investigate, charge and convict those who distribute or illegally prescribe fentanyl. In addition, in an effort to educate the public about the treat of fentanyl, law enforcement agencies, including the DEA, joined with nonprofit and public health organizations in initiating the first ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day in May, 2022.
State and Federal Laws Related to Doctors Prescribing Fentanyl
With the proper state and federal qualifications and licensing, a doctor can legally “distribute” (prescribe) fentanyl to patients. In fact, doctors who specialize in the treatment of chronic pain may legally prescribe fentanyl on a regular basis. Unfortunately, however, all it takes is a red flag from a federal monitoring system, a discrepancy during a routine audit, or an anonymous tip for a doctor to wind up under investigation by state and/or federal law enforcement agencies for violating the controlled substance distribution laws.
To prevent “pill mill” operations, both the State of Florida and the U.S. Government impose strict regulations and oversight on doctors who regularly treat chronic pain. If a law enforcement investigation indicates that a doctor is violating the applicable fentanyl prescribing laws, the physician can be arrested and prosecuted for the illegal distribution of a controlled substance.
Even if you are not ultimately convicted of a criminal offense, an arrest alone can cause considerable damage to your reputation as a doctor and threaten your medical license, employment and future career. If you are convicted of distributing fentanyl, the potential penalties can be devastating.
What Are the Penalties for a Fentanyl Distribution Conviction?
Federal statutes under Title 21 of the United States Code prohibit the distribution of controlled substances and establish penalty guidelines. The penalties are linked to the type and quantity of controlled substance involved in an offense and can be increased if someone has a prior record or if the substance caused death or serious bodily injury.
At the federal level, a conviction for manufacturing or distributing 40 – 399 grams of fentanyl or 10-99 grams of a fentanyl analogue subjects you to a prison sentence of not less than 5 years and up to 40 years and/or a fine of up to $2 million. If death or serious injury occurs because of the distribution of fentanyl, you face a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. If you are convicted of distributing 400 grams or more of fentanyl or 100 grams or more of a fentanyl analogue, you face a prison term of 10 years to life and/or a fine of up to $4 million. If death or serious injury is involved, the potential sentence is increased to not less than 20 and up to life in prison.
Section 893.135 of the Florida Statutes governs the sale, purchase, manufacture, and delivery of fentanyl, a first-degree felony in the State of Florida. If convicted under that statute, you face the following mandatory terms of imprisonment:
- A mandatory minimum of seven years in prison for distribution of four to 14 grams
- A mandatory 20 years in prison for distribution of 14 to 28 grams
- A mandatory 25-year prison sentence for distribution of 28 grams or more
Along with potentially facing criminal penalties imposed by a state or federal court, you may also find your assets frozen and targeted for civil forfeiture and face disciplinary action that threatens your license to practice medicine – even if you are not convicted of a criminal offense.
Why You Need an Experienced Florida Doctor Defense Attorney to Defend against Fentanyl Charges
As a physician, you undoubtedly understand what is at stake if you are the subject of a fentanyl distribution investigation or you are charged with illegally distributing fentanyl by the state and/or federal government. The best way to protect your license, your freedom, your finances, and your future is to contact a Florida attorney who has successful experience defending doctors’ medical licenses and defending against state and federal criminal drug charges.
If you suspect or are aware you are being investigated for possible drug offenses, do not communicate personally with investigators, and do not wait until you are arrested to seek protection. Attorney Jonathan Rose has the knowledge, skill and legal expertise you need to intervene in the investigation and prevent charges being filed against you. He has more than twenty years of experience as an attorney and focuses on defending health care professionals against criminal charges and actions against their medical licenses.
Protect your reputation, your career and your future by calling attorney Jonathan Rose at 407-894-4555 or submitting the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website.