Carfentanil’s U.S. presence growing, along with related criminal charges

The drug creates a public safety risk and is a growing target for criminal prosecution.

In October 2017, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. He pushed for tough law enforcement efforts against buyers as part of the strategy. An increase in opioid-related prosecutions is likely to follow, including a crackdown on crimes related to the large animal tranquilizer carfentanil, which is only used legally for animals like elephants in captivity.

Carfentanil is a relatively new problem. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA, in October 2016, just over 400 laboratory identifications of the drug had been confirmed nationally, but it has continued to spread throughout the country.

Dangers of carfentanil

Carfentanil - a synthetic opioid - is showing up on the streets as an additive to other drugs like heroin, cocaine and crystal meth. Carfentanil when mixed with heroin, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids is sometimes called gray death. In addition to tablet form, it can be in powder, spray, liquid, capsules or blotter paper.

Chemically, it is an analog of the synthetic opioid fentanyl - and it is around 100 times stronger. To put carfentanil in context, it is also about 10,000 times more potent then the opioid-based painkiller morphine.

Only a grain or two of carfentanil can kill a person. It is dangerous when it comes into contact with skin or becomes airborne in powder form. The drug is a risk tor first responders, medical providers, lab workers and others.

Law enforcement will understandably be aggressive in prosecuting related crimes. Still, the legal and constitutional rights of those targeted must be respected in the process. Unfortunately, prosecutors may inappropriately accuse some of related crimes.

Showing up locally

In 2017, authorities in Monmouth County, New Jersey, found carfentanil and cyclopropyl fentanyl laced into pills made to look like Oxycodone, a legal opioid medication.

According to USA Today, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni said that these counterfeit pills that look like Oxycodone turn into "Russian roulette" when bought on the street.

In November 2017, App.com reported that carfentanil had recently also surfaced in Ocean County. The article also said that the drug is often made in China, where it is not a controlled substance.

Users, buyers and even sellers may not know that they are dealing with the invisible additive. Not surprisingly, the numbers of carfentanil overdoses, sometimes fatal, are rising.

Carfentanil exposure may cause disorientation, fatigue, difficulty breathing, clamminess and small pupils. If naloxone is administered in time, the effects may be reversed.

Prosecution of carfentanil drug crimes

Carfentanil is a federal Schedule II drug so related federal crimes carry severe penalties. Related crimes under New Jersey state law also bring serious sanctions. Whether a defendant faces federal or state charges, penalties are likely to include prison time, fines and more. Offenses could include:

  • Possession
  • Trafficking
  • Distribution
  • Conspiracy
  • Sale

In addition, if someone is injured or dies from ingestion or contact with the substance, the person responsible for providing it could potentially face charges related to the injury or death.

It is essential that anyone facing an investigation or charges related to carfentanil seek the representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The ramifications of a conviction are too great to face without professional advocacy.

The attorneys of Hobbie Corrigan & Bertucio, P.C., with offices in Toms River and Eatontown, New Jersey, vigorously defend those accused of state or federal drug crimes throughout New Jersey and in New York City.