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How federal sentencing rules for fentanyl offenses will soon change

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2023 | Drug Crimes

Fentanyl has rapidly become one of the most dangerous and concerning drugs available on the unregulated market. Reports from law enforcement agencies around the country indicate that fentanyl has begun turning up in many other popular drugs and that some of the pills and powdered forms of fentanyl available on the unregulated market have other contaminants and no standard dosage.

Although many individual states have recently increased the severity of fentanyl sentencing, federal sentencing rules for fentanyl will take a turn for the more compassionate in the late fall of 2023.

How will federal fentanyl rules change?

The First Step Act will decrease some fentanyl sentences. How long someone spends in state custody after an arrest for a drug offense will depend on many factors. Their prior criminal record, the amount of drugs found in their possession and even the schedule of the specific drugs will all influence the penalties that someone faces.

The new federal rules that will go into effect on November 1st, 2023 will actually expand the circumstances in which a federal judge can deviate from sentencing guidelines for the sake of leniency. The new rules expand on the extenuating circumstances in which someone could petition for a reduced sentence. The new rules allow for compassion when someone serves as a primary caregiver for a parent or other immediate family member with disabling health issues. Those who have health issues themselves or a history as a victim of interpersonal abuse may also be eligible for compassionate consideration by the judge sentencing them.

Why reducing incarceration might help

The threat of imprisonment does not deter people from drug use, as many people consuming fentanyl or involved in its distribution may have substance abuse disorders. Imprisonment cuts people off from their social support and traumatizes them, which may only strengthen their dependence on mind-numbing drugs like fentanyl. By reducing someone’s sentence and putting more of an emphasis on rehabilitation instead of punishment, the federal courts can potentially help some people facing charges make better choices in the future and can at least reduce the harm caused by involvement with the criminal justice system.

Despite new systems to promote compassionate sentencing and specific scenarios, federal judges often take a strict approach to fentanyl offenses and similar charges related to dangerous narcotic substances. Reviewing changes in federal law and tracking trends in federal prosecution may benefit those who will soon face drug charges in federal courts in Arkansas as they evolve. With that said, nothing related to drug prosecution should be taken for granted. Speaking with an experienced attorney is, therefore, important for anyone who wants to seek a favorable outcome.