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Harsh penalties for fentanyl analogues could be permanent

Illinois residents might have heard of the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act that is being considered by Congress. The Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of Justice and the National Association of Attorneys General have all championed the SOFA Act, saying that it could be a solution to cut down on the illegal supply of fentanyl-like analogue drugs in the United States.

If passed, the SOFA Act would make permanent an already existing emergency DEA order that is scheduled to expire on Feb. 6. The emergency order has designated fentanyl analogues as Schedule 1 substances, which allows federal agents to more easily investigate alleged traffickers. Sentencing for fentanyl analogue trafficking has also been heightened under the emergency order.

While law enforcement officials are pushing to keep fentanyl analogues on the Schedule 1 list, some groups are warning that harsher punishments for these types of drugs will do more harm than good. According to a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance, so-called drug dealers busted for trafficking are often just drug users selling small quantities to their friends. Another problem that the DPA points out is that when drug dealers are prosecuted, their absence often leads to harsher drugs entering the communities where they used to operate.

Some people who are charged for trafficking illegal fentanyl were unaware that they were in possession of it. If a person is charged for trafficking a Schedule 1 substance, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to help them to argue that they did not do it knowingly. A lawyer may help a defendant in this type of case to convince a judge that their alleged actions were unwitting and that charges should be reduced or dismissed.

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