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Fentanyl Smuggling Soars in Arizona Counties

by Aaron M. Black • December 06, 2021

Fentanyl Trafficking Across ArizonaInterstate 10 through Arizona is a route for fentanyl traffickers moving the illicit drug from suppliers in Mexico into the hands of Arizonans consuming fentanyl laced with other illicit drugs, a deadly combination.

Here are just a few examples of fentanyl cases so far this year.

A trooper stopped a Chevrolet Cobalt on November 10 traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 in Casa Grande and found 30,000 fentanyl pills packaged in three bundles weighing 8.2 pounds. They have a street value of $400,000. Two occupants, Alan Aguilar and Manuel Carrillo Serrano, ages 25, were arrested on drug trafficking offenses and jailed on a $50,000 bond.

In Yavapai County parents concealed 52,000 fentanyl pills stuffed into a child’s car seat.

In El Mirage, just West of Phoenix, a couple purchased a Glo Worm toy for their child in February at a thrift store and when they began cleaning it, they found 5,000 fentanyl pills and notified authorities.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) has kept a significant focus on removing fentanyl filtered into Arizona. DPS so far in 2021 have seized about 385 pounds of fentanyl, said the agency’s director, Col Heston Silbert, on KTAR News.

Pima County Health Department reported 409 opioid overdoses so far this year, of which more than half were fentanyl related. Synthetic opioid is the leading cause of death among Pima County teenagers.

The Federal Drug Administration says fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Other opioids are laced in fentanyl, a drug developed to ease pain in cancer patients.

Deadly laced fentanyl is a raging public health crisis. Arizona deaths caused by opioids in 2020 increased 45 percent from the previous year. Fentanyl is easy to manufacturer, is extremely potent, and its various forms are easy to smuggle.

Fentanyl has been found in other drugs so drug users have no idea what they are taking. To combat this Governor Ducey, in May 2021 from his Phoenix office, signed into law a provision to remove fentanyl testing products from Arizona’s list of illegal drug paraphernalia, which now allows drug users to identify drugs that have been laced with fentanyl.

Fentanyl Trafficking

Arizona’s drug law explained

Those selling or trafficking the drug open themselves to a Class 2 felony carrying long prison sentences if convicted and a drastically altered life after release from prison.

Arizona Revised Statute 13-3408 forbids people to possess, use, administer to another person, acquire, sell, and transport or offer to transport illicit drugs including fentanyl, as well as possessing equipment and chemicals for manufacturing illicit drugs.

Possessing over “threshold” amounts of illicit drugs is determined by weight, market value, or other form of measurement as outlined in ARS 13-3401(36)...

36. “Threshold amount” means a weight, market value or other form of measurement of an unlawful substance as follows:
(a) One gram of heroin.
(b) Nine grams of cocaine.
(c) Seven hundred fifty milligrams of cocaine base or hydrolyzed cocaine.
(d) Four grams or 50 milliliters of PCP.
(e) Nine grams of methamphetamine, including methamphetamine in liquid suspension.
(f) Nine grams of amphetamine, including amphetamine in liquid suspension.
(g) One-half milliliter of lysergic acid diethylamide, or in the case of blotter dosage units fifty dosage units.
(h) Two pounds of marijuana.
(i) For any combination consisting solely of those unlawful substances listed in subdivisions (a) through (h) of this paragraph, an amount equal to or in excess of the threshold amount, as determined by the application of § 13–3420 .
*Also, any narcotic not listed above having a market value over $1000 is considered over threshold. Fentanyl is a narcotic drug.
Any of these criteria leads law enforcement to presume the defendant was engaged in manufacturing, transporting, selling, transferring or offering to do any of these activities. Scales, packaging materials and other evidence does not need to be discovered to make the charges.

Those who are arrested for threshold amounts will be charged with a Class 2 felony, the second most serious crime in the felony range. Repeat drug threshold offenders will face longer prison sentences.

Possessing equipment for making dangerous drugs is a Class 3 felony with lesser but still significant penalties.

Sentences for over threshold fentanyl offenses

Arizona has strict punishments for fentanyl offenses under the state’s sentencing guidelines, which have ranges of minimum, presumptive, maximum, and aggravated. Transporting for sale, over the threshold amount, is a serious offense. If convicted, a prison sentence is mandatory. 
For a first time felony conviction for transporting fentanyl over the threshold amount, is a mandatory prison sentences of:
    Class 2 felony: 2 to 12.5 years in prison.

Restrictions after release

Felons after completing their prison sentences for Class 2 felony will find restrictions altering daily life.

Felons are forbidden to own or possess a firearm and disobeying that restriction means going back to prison. Felons cannot vote in elections, hold public office, enlist in the military or serve on a jury. Employers can refuse to hire felons, landlords can deny them a place to live to protect their renters, and felons may lose public housing.

They cannot obtain a commercial driver’s license or hold a certificate for various professions or occupations. Felons who were receiving education grants and loans may be barred from obtaining further assistance and denied food stamps and workers’ compensation.

The felony conviction remains on the offender’s public record for 99 years.

Common fentanyl drug trafficking defenses

Every case has a unique fact pattern that is paramount in establishing a defense. The law allows avenues to ward off a felony conviction with these common defenses:
  • If the defendant had no knowledge that fentanyl was in the vehicle or a residence that is a defense in that there was no intent to commit the offense.
  • The arresting officer did not have a legal reason to make a traffic stop or enter a private residence. It is a defense if the officer did not have probable cause or a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred or is about to happen.
  • The officer did not, as required by law, advise you of your Miranda rights to remain silent and have an attorney present during interrogation.
  • Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement undercover officer asks the defendant to commit a crime that the defendant would not have committed had not the officer used coercion, threats, or to place the person under some sort of duress. In this defense, the defendant must admit to the criminal action.
  • Factual errors in the police report, or omissions that would have helped the defendant, and the arresting officer’s record looking for mistakes or proof that the officer was biased.
  • A person falsely accuses the defendant of committing a felony.


Protect your legal rights

It is clear that this offense is extremely serious. If you or a loved one are arrested or under investigation for a fentanyl offense, it is best to have legal representation immediately.

The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, so establishing doubt in the minds of a juror is the defense’s goal. Hiring a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in defending fentanyl cases, such as myself, is crucial for your freedom.

I will conduct an independent probe of the state’s evidence and law enforcement procedures hunting for errors or misconduct.

Should the prosecution have a strong case against you, it may be possible to negotiate a plea agreement to a less serious charge in return for a guilty plea.

In using me for your defense, you will receive aggressive representation and personalized service. You will always be talking to me, never an assistant. Start your defense by calling Aaron M. Black Law at 480-729-1683 or use my online contact form. I will respond quickly unless I am in court or at trial.

I defend drug trafficking fentanyl cases in federal, state, municipal, and justice courts in and adjacent to Maricopa County.

About the Author

Aaron Black is the founder and sole attorney of the Law Office of Aaron Black. Located in Phoenix, Arizona, his DUI and criminal defense law firm provides legal services to people who have received felony or misdemeanor charges from the state.

Aaron has developed a strong interest in defending people who have been arrested and received criminal charges for driving under the influence. With his professionalism and knowledge of Arizona DUI and criminal law, he has acted as a check and balance on the police, prosecution and courts and has protected a great number of his clients from excessive and unfair sentencing.

Along with DUI defense, Aaron handles a range of other criminal matters, including aggravated assault, burglary, domestic violence, drug possession, drug trafficking, fraud defense, insurance fraud, sex crimes and white-collar crime.

After graduating college in 2003 from the University of Arizona, Aaron decided to pursue a law degree. He followed a family long tradition and went to the University of South Dakota School of Law where he pursued his goal of becoming a criminal defense lawyer.

After passing the Arizona and South Dakota bar exams, Aaron joined the Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender where he defended hundreds of people charged with serious criminal offenses. His work as a public defender helped him sharpen his litigation skills and gave him a unique insight into the Arizona criminal justice system.

Over the course of his 15-year legal career, Aaron has spent a considerable amount of time in both Arizona justice, municipal, state and federal courts. He has argued over 50 jury trials, tried over 100 bench trials and has become one of the highest-rated criminal and DUI defense attorneys in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. He has received a 10/10 rating from the legal directory Avvo because of his legal background and successful case record. Since 2014, he has received the Super Lawyer rating for his work as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.

You can review Aaron’s Attorney Bio page for more information about his background, education and experience as a Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney.

Available by phone, text and/or email

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.

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