What are Opioids?

The most powerful prescription painkillers prescribed by a doctor are called opioids.  Opioids are opium-like compounds manufactured to react on the nervous system in the same way as drugs derived from the opium poppy, like heroin. Some of the most commonly abused opioid painkillers are oxycodone, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone and propoxyphene.

  • Oxycodone is sold under the brand names Percodan, Endodan, Roxiprin, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet and OxyContin.
  • Hydrocodone brand names include Lorcet, Vicodin, Anexsia, Dicodid, Hycodan, Hycomine, Lortab, Norco, and Tussionex.
  • Meperidine is branded as Demerol, hydromorphone is sold as brand name Dilaudid and propoxyphene is sold with the brand name Darvon.

Opioids are classified as Schedule II controlled substances under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. § 802.).  A Schedule II drug is a prescription drug that has been found to be safe when used as prescribed but has a very high potential for abuse and significant risk of addiction. The federal government heavily regulates the manufacture, possession, and distribution of Schedule II drugs.  In addition to federal laws, Florida also has their own stringent drug laws under Florida Statutes Chapter 893 that also apply.

Selling vs. possession

Possession of opioids such as oxycodone or OxyContin without a valid prescription is a serious crime with harsh penalties. It is a third degree felony to possess less than four grams of Oxycodone without a valid prescription.

When a person is caught with oxycodone but not in the act of selling it, the prosecutor must prove that there was the intent to sell it in order to convict that person of the more serious crime.

Most drug trafficking charges arise in situations where the prosecution must rely on circumstantial evidence of the defendant’s intent to sell. This is because most defendants will deny that they intended to sell the drug and possessed it only for personal use (which carries a lesser penalty).

Circumstantial evidence of intent to sell a controlled substance includes:

  • amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession,
  • drug packaging such as plastic bags, scales or other paraphernalia indicating dealing, and
  • the presence of large amounts of cash (assumed to be from sales).

A person convicted of attempting or conspiring to sell oxycodone or OxyContin is subject to the same penalties as a person convicted of making an actual sale of the drug.

Sale or attempted sale near a school or other facility

Under the Controlled Substances Act, a person convicted of selling or attempting to sell oxycodone or OxyContin near a school, including a college, or other areas where young people may be present faces twice the maximum prison sentence, twice the maximum fine, and twice the term of supervised release.

A person is subject to the enhanced penalties if he or she is convicted of selling or attempting to sell the drug within:

  • 1,000 feet of a public or private elementary, secondary or vocational school
  • 1,000 feet of a public or private college, state college, junior college, or university
  • 1,000 feet of a playground, or public housing facility, or
  • 100 feet of a public or private youth center, or video arcade

How is Selling Oxycodone/OxyContin Punished?

Under federal sentencing guidelines,  someone convicted of selling or attempting to sell oxycodone or OxyContin faces five to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 to $5 million fine, or both. As previously stated, if the defendant is convicted of selling or attempting to sell the drug near a school or one of the other specified facilities, the penalty (both prison time and monetary fine) doubles. And, if anyone dies as a result of the drug sale (from overdose or otherwise), the defendant may face life in prison.