Rutigliano supports stricter penalties for synthetic opioid dealers

State Rep. David Rutigliano (R-Trumbull) supported a proposal last night in the House of Representatives which changes the definition of narcotic substance in order to add fentanyl and fentanyl derivatives, this significant change will increase the penalties for dealing fentanyl substances in Connecticut.

“It is good public policy to increase the criminal penalties for dealing of fentanyl. Fentanyl is a substance that is 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and directly responsible for over 180 Connecticut deaths in 2015,” said Rep. Rutigliano, who is a co-sponsor of the legislation. “This bill is a necessary and common sense change to battle the devastating opioid issue facing Connecticut.”

Bill HB-5524 —An Act Increasing Penalties for Dealing Synthetic Drugs — codifies the classification of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid analgesic, as a narcotic substance. The Department of Consumer Protection currently classifies fentanyl as a narcotic substance. By law, the penalties for certain illegal actions involving narcotics are higher than for certain other controlled substances. These include illegally manufacturing, distributing, selling, and prescribing the substances.

Currently, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, sell, prescribe, dispense, compound, transport or possess with intent to sell or dispense, offer, give, or administer to another any narcotic substance, except as otherwise authorized by law. The penalty for these actions depends on a number of factors, including the amount and type of drug, the offender's age, the buyer's age, where the act takes place, whether the offender is addicted to drugs, and whether the act was a first or repeat offense.

There are mandatory minimum prison terms for several crimes involving drug sales or related actions, although a judge can depart from the mandatory minimum for some such crimes under certain circumstances. The penalties are generally enhanced when the crimes occur within 1,500 feet of a school, licensed day care center, or public housing project.

Individuals convicted of selling narcotics generally face longer prison sentences and greater fines than those convicted of selling non-narcotic controlled substances.

For example, a person convicted for a first offense of selling narcotics may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, fined up to $50,000, or both. If the seller is non-addicted, the penalties range from a mandatory five- to 20-year prison term.

In contrast, a person convicted for a first offense of selling non-narcotic controlled substances may be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, fined up to $25,000, or both.

The bill specifies that a “narcotic substance” is a controlled substance unless modified that includes fentanyl or any salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of fentanyl that is similar in chemical structure or in physiological effect, and shows a similar potential for abuse. It also includes any salt, compound, isomer, derivative, or preparation of any substance that is chemically equivalent or identical to fentanyl.