LCSO Warns Citizens on Spike in Fentanyl Overdoses

April 28, 2023 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, News & Announcements

Since March 31st, 2023, Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) has responded to five separate incidents of fentanyl-suspected drug overdoses. From those incidents, seven different victims experienced what they believed to be an overdose after ingesting Oxycodone or Percocet pills that were laced with fentanyl.

Luckily, none of the five incidents resulted in any deaths, due to first responders acting quickly with Narcan. Now LCSO is warning Florida citizens of another rise in alleged fentanyl-laced substances and the dangers it poses for a possible overdose. This blog post will provide information on fentanyl as a substance, LCSO’s warning, signs of an overdose, and the penalties for possessing fentanyl in Florida.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used in medicine to treat extreme pain. A synthetic opioid is artificially made in a laboratory rather than being derived from opium poppies or other natural sources. These types of substances are designed to mimic the effects of natural opioids, such as morphine and codeine, but are often more potent and can have higher risks of addiction and overdose.

Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, and 100 times stronger than morphine. By even ingesting a small dose, the outcomes can turn lethal. As law enforcement is finding more cases of the illicit opioid, they are finding that drug traffickers have started mixing them with other substances in a powder or pill form.

When mixed into other forms, fentanyl can be impossible to detect, meaning some may ingest fentanyl without intending to. In the worst cases, this can lead to an unwanted overdose.

In their most recent media release, Leon County Sheriff’s Office warns citizens to never accept or take a pill unless otherwise prescribed by a licensed physician. In addition, citizens should be aware of the signs of an overdose so they can administer Narcan or call for medical help.

Data on Fentanyl

According to the CDC, there have been over 105,000 deaths nationwide due to drug overdose. Of those, 66% of those fatalities were caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Last year the leading cause of death in adults ages 18-45 was caused by fentanyl poisoning. Fentanyl poisoning surpassed gun violence, suicide, and car accidents.

Florida has seen a growing portion of deaths caused by fentanyl. In 2020, the Florida Department of Health estimated more than 6,150 deaths caused by overdoses linked to fentanyl.

LCSO is also launching a social media campaign that aims to focus on messages of awareness, prevention, and support to coincide with May 9th’s National Fentanyl Awareness Day. The campaign is set to expand on the “One Pill Can Kill” campaign and include local resources to stop and prevent fentanyl overdoses.

Signs of an Overdose

It is important to be aware of the signs of an opioid overdose, to potentially save a person’s life in need of immediate assistance. If you notice any of the following signs of an overdose, you should immediately contact 911:

  • Small pupils
  • Losing consciousness
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp limbs/body
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Discoloration of skin, lips, or nails

LCSO has listed these additional signs of fentanyl overdose:

  • Blue lips or fingertips
  • Unresponsive to sternal rub
  • Body stiffening
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Confusion

Important: As of March 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved over the counter Naloxone Nasal Spray (Narcan). This means anyone can carry naloxone and administer it to someone experiencing an overdose. Narcan can potentially save lives from an overdose. To read more about the recently approved nasal spray, read our blog post here.

Response from LCSO

The following is a statement from Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil:

“The Leon County Sheriff’s Office Vice and Narcotics Unit continue to work diligently with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to arrest the people responsible for trafficking these dangerous drugs, but addressing the criminality of the problem is only part of the solution. The increase in overdoses should be a wake-up call to our community, lawmakers, and other key stakeholders that stopping this epidemic requires a collaborative effort to adopt new strategies to confront the problem and find solutions to save lives.”

Fentanyl Possession and HB 95

In May 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 95 into law to enhance the penalties for the sale and distribution of opioids like fentanyl in Florida. Under HB 95, the mandatory minimum sentencing for trafficking fentanyl is enhanced from 3 to 7 years for possession of 4-14 grams, and from 15 to 20 years for possessing 14-28 grams.

“Floridians of all walks of life have witnessed the destruction caused by the opioid epidemic across our state,” said Gov. DeSantis. “While the Biden administration has failed to stop the flow of dangerous drugs, including fentanyl, across the southern border, we are taking action in Florida to lower both the demand and supply of illicit and illegal drugs.”

Getting arrested for the possession of fentanyl is a third-degree felony in Florida. Typically, a third-degree felony carries penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. However, the exact sentencing will depend on the quantity of the illicit substance found in the defendant’s possession. To find out more about drug charges in Florida, read our informative page here.

Defenses Against Fentanyl Charges

Based on the specific facts of your case, a skilled defense attorney may be able to use some of the following defenses:

  • Due Process Challenge; If your Constitutional rights are infringed by the conduct of the police, some or all of the evidence found against you may be suppressed which can lead to lesser charges or a dismissal of the case against you.
  • Constructive Possession; If the substance was only found close to you, a possible defense against this charge is that the defendant did not have constructive control of the substance.

To learn more about defending against drug charges in Tallahassee, read more on our informative page here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

In Florida, drug charges are harshly prosecuted. With the dangerous rise of fentanyl across the nation, the State is likely to prosecute to the harshest of penalties for fentanyl possession or distribution. If you or a loved one has been arrested for an alleged drug crime, reach out to a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible.

At Pumphrey Law Firm, our attorneys will make it our top priority to defend your case. We provide help throughout the entire legal process, answering any questions regarding the charges against you or the legal proceedings. In addition, we’ll ensure none of your rights are violated in the process. To speak with Don Pumphrey or one of our other attorneys, contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message to receive a free consultation. 

Written by Karissa Key

Back to Top