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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Drug Crimes / Florida Legislature Proposes New Bill Based On Misinformation

Florida Legislature Proposes New Bill Based On Misinformation


In late January 2024, lawmakers in Florida’s state Senate and House of Representatives proposed bills creating a criminal penalty for any adult who would expose a first responder to the drug fentanyl or any chemically similar analogues, causing serious bodily injury. The word “expose” is specifically defined as causing a person to ingest, inhale, be stuck by a needle, or to absorb the drug through “the skin or mucous membranes.” However, a growing body of information suggests that the absorption of fentanyl through the skin is a myth, which would mean that a law criminalizing this conduct would be problematic from the moment of its passage.

Fentanyl Is Taken Very Seriously

Fentanyl is a Schedule II synthetic opioid, primarily designed for use in pain management for cancer patients and for post-surgery complications. It has become a popular street drug because its chemical structure allows it to be modified with relative ease, creating a compound said to grant an even greater high. However, because of its flexibility, so to speak, fentanyl is also highly dangerous to its users, allegedly having 50 times the potency of heroin and 100 times the potency of morphine.

Crimes involving fentanyl possession, sale, or trafficking are prosecuted aggressively, with stiff sentences and few plea-bargains. Florida’s long history with illegal drugs has led to strong pushback, with the state retaining mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and being prone to tack on additional charges to a case in order to obtain leverage. In theory, this bill would better protect first responders who may have to deal with potentially dangerous substances – but as they are currently written, both bills include misinformation that could be used against people who have done nothing wrong.

Science vs Stress

For a time, there was little research on the specific properties of fentanyl and how it can enter the human body, but in recent years, its characteristics are becoming better understood. According to toxicologists, fentanyl does not “pass through the skin well,” and the idea of it “hanging in the air” and being breathed in is “highly[,] highly implausible.” Yet law enforcement has reported multiple incidents in the last few years where medical symptoms are directly attributed to fentanyl exposure.

Despite the scientific evidence showing the relative impossibility of dermal exposure to fentanyl proving deadly, many in law enforcement continue to fear the possibility. A 2021 study interviewed law enforcement officials from five different departments, finding that almost all subjects wrongly believed that dermal exposure was far more dangerous than it actually is, and would not be convinced otherwise. Allowing the Florida legislature to pass this measure would only contribute to further stress for law enforcement, as codifying misinformation tends to give it a veneer of legitimacy.

Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney

While it remains to be seen whether these bills will become law, one can only hope that they remain rooted in committee – but one bad bill does not mean that fentanyl is not dangerous, and certainly does not mean that charges of possessing or selling fentanyl should not be taken seriously. A West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can protect your rights if you have been charged with this type of offense. Contact our office today to speak to an attorney.



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