Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges After USPS Finds Fentanyl in Package

A Chicago man has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for attempting to receive a parcel containing a vacuum-sealed substance. The substance turned out to be fentanyl, the highly-potent opioid drug at the heart of the opioid crisis -- a drug being vigorously prosecuted by Federal and State prosecutors.

The defendant, who was originally from Chicago, received the package in Wisconsin where a joint task force took control of the parcel before it was delivered, analyzed the contents, and then restored the original packaging. They then waited for the man to receive the parcel at the Wisconsin address, where they arrested him on charges of attempting to possess fentanyl for distribution. A driver was also arrested at the scene. The individual who took receipt of the parcel was sentenced to 48 months while the driver was sentenced to 24 months.

Fentanyl-Related Drug Charges

Fentanyl is good for traffickers because one part of fentanyl is equal to 10 parts of heroin. In other words, it takes 10 times less fentanyl to produce a comparable high. That means it is smaller, which makes it easier to traffic (and cheaper, too). The amount of money you can charge for smaller doses is also higher, making it more profitable. On the flip side, marijuana is the least profitable and most costly to traffic, but there is considerably less risk involved.

Fentanyl, like marijuana, is actually legal to possess so long as you have a prescription for it. However, the penalties for fentanyl possession and distribution are considerable. In some cases, those with valid prescriptions end up getting charged by police for failure to prove their prescription belongs to them. The police can ask questions concerning your prescription, determine if you have too many pills, or if your pills are expired.

In 2017, fentanyl was not unheard of, but it was much rarer to find it on the streets. In 2018, the number of fentanyl-related arrests skyrocketed. Since then, the average sentence for fentanyl-related crimes was 74 months, with 97.4% of defendants receiving prison time.

Federal Safety Valve Sentences

Federal sentencing guidelines generally require the judge to assign a mandatory minimum sentence. However, a judge is given some leeway to divert from these sentencing guidelines so long as specific conditions are met. For drug crimes, if this is a first offense and no gun was found on the dealer’s person, a safety valve sentence can reduce the mandatory minimum. About 44% of cases involving federal fentanyl charges applied safety valves that allowed judges to reduce the mandatory minimum.

Nonetheless, technicalities can prevent federal defendants from employing safety valve defenses to otherwise strong prosecutions. The mere presence of a gun in a defendant’s home is enough to nullify such a plea agreement. Further, the presence of other crimes like reckless driving can nullify a potential agreement. A Chicago federal defense lawyer can help those charged with fentanyl crimes reduce their mandatory minimums by advocating for safety valve sentencing.

Talk to a Chicago Federal Drug Crime Defense Lawyer

If you need representation for a criminal charge in Cook County, Glasgow & Olsson is uniquely qualified to help. When you need an attorney, experience matters. Contact us today to learn how our experience can get you the results you deserve.

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