Before the year ends, Congress must decide whether to make an emergency order by the Drug Enforcement Agency permanent. People in South Carolina who are facing charges related to selling drugs may only have sold small amounts to friends. Critics of the temporary DEA order and other drug laws say they penalize these users and sellers while failing to target big dealers.
The emergency order, which expires in February, classifies subjects that are like fentanyl as Schedule 1 drugs. The bill that would make it permanent is called Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues. The Department of Justice says it makes it easier for federal agents to pursue and prosecute people who create these analogues. However, the Drug Policy Alliance has called for an approach that looks at why drugs are being bought and sold instead of imposing increasingly harsh sentences.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in 2016, fewer than 20% of people who faced a sentence for trafficking fentanyl knew what they were selling. Other critics say that drug laws disproportionately target black and Latino sellers. The DPA report says law enforcement should focus on crimes that harm others and put less emphasis on detaining people for using or distributing drugs. Nationwide, some prosecutors are working to drop charges for minor drug offenses and are trying to help people with addiction issues.
People who are facing drug charges might want to consult an attorney about how to proceed and what kind of defense might be available. An attorney might see whether a deal could be worked out with a prosecutor to get the charges reduced or dismissed. The attorney might also make sure that the person’s rights were observed. Illegal searches or other errors, such as failing to explain a person’s rights or mishandling substances for testing, could lead to evidence being dismissed.