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Fourth Circuit Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal in Drug Case, Concluding that His Sentence was Reasonable

In a recent opinion coming from a federal court in the southeast, the defendant’s attempt to challenge the length of his sentence was denied. The defendant had been found guilty of distribution of fentanyl, and he argued on appeal that his resulting sentence was unreasonably long. The court disagreed, keeping his original sentence in place.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was accused of selling drugs to a man who eventually overdosed. The man, who was found unconscious on his bathroom floor, had heroin and fentanyl in his system at the time of his death. Investigators soon learned of the chain of events that led to the man’s death: the defendant in this case had texted the man a few days earlier, bragging that he was in possession of a drug called “China White,” which is a narcotic containing fentanyl. When the defendant told the man about the China White, he bragged that it was very strong and that people were “going out” on the drug.

The man bought drugs from the defendant twice over a period of two days. The second time, the man asked the defendant for only half a gram of the drug, but the defendant encouraged him to purchase a whole gram. After taking the drug, the man overdosed and died immediately. His roommate found him on the floor when she came home from work later in the day.

The defendant was arrested and charged with the distribution of a detectable amount of fentanyl as well as distribution of a detectable amount of fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury and death. In exchange for dismissal of the second charge, the defendant pleaded guilty to the first charge. He was sentenced to time in prison.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that the court had given him an unreasonably long sentence of 120 days in prison. According to the defendant, there was not enough evidence to show that the fentanyl he sold was the definite cause of the man’s death. Without this evidence, it was unfair to sentence him to so many days in prison.

The court disagreed. The evidence, said the court, was clear: the man who died purchased fentanyl from the defendant the night before he died. The amount of fentanyl purchased was “shocking” and “extreme” in comparison with what is considered to be a typical amount of heroin. Additionally, the man’s roommate made clear in her testimony that she had seen the man alive and well the morning he died, meaning the only plausible explanation for his sudden passing was the consumption of the drugs.

The court also emphasized the seriousness of the defendant’s offense, noting that the defendant clearly knew the risk involved in consuming the drugs he marketed and sold. The court also considered the fact that the defendant had been previously convicted for intent to manufacture, sell, and deliver cocaine. Considering this past criminal history, said the court, it was reasonable for the defendant to be sentenced to 120 days in prison.

Have You Been Charged with Illegal Drug Possession in the Commonwealth of Virginia?

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