Increased Prison Sentences for Fentanyl Dealers in Arizona

increased prison sentences for fentanyl dealers in Arizona

In response to the escalating fentanyl crisis in Arizona, recent legislative actions have aimed to impose stricter penalties on those convicted of dealing in this highly potent synthetic opioid.


At the heart of these efforts is the Ashley Dunn Act, named in memory of a victim of fentanyl overdose, which significantly revises the sentencing guidelines for fentanyl dealers.


This piece will explore the implications of this act, its comparison with laws in other states, potential defenses for those accused of dealing in fentanyl, and how Kolsrud Law Offices can offer expert legal defense in such cases.

What is the Ashely Dunn Act

The Ashley Dunn Act, officially designated as HB 2245, marks a significant legislative advancement in Arizona's battle against the fentanyl crisis.


Signed into law by Governor Hobbs and sponsored by State Representative Quang Nguyen, this Act specifically targets high-volume fentanyl dealers with the intent to impose more stringent sentencing guidelines.


  • Enacted Legislation: HB 2245, known as the "Ashley Dunn Act," enhances sentencing for those found guilty of selling fentanyl in high volumes, defined as at least 200 grams or approximately 2,000 pills.
  • Sentencing Guidelines: The law stipulates a minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 15 years for first offenders, with the range increasing to 10 to 20 years for repeat offenders.

Representative Nguyen spearheaded this legislation in response to the devastating impact of fentanyl on Arizona communities, particularly highlighted by the tragic loss of Ashley Marie Dunn from Prescott.


Ashley's death in May 2021, after consuming a counterfeit Percocet pill laced with fentanyl, catalyzed a movement led by her mother, Josephine Dunn, advocating for more rigorous measures against fentanyl distribution.

How Does The Act Change the Minimum Prison Sentence For Fentanyl Dealers

The enactment of the Ashley Dunn Act significantly alters fentanyl-related sentencing in Arizona, particularly by instituting more severe penalties for high-volume dealers. 


Previous Penalties for Fentanyl-Related Offenses:


  • Fentanyl Simple Possession: Classified as a Class 4 felony, first-time offenders could receive 1 to 3.75 years in prison, with the possibility of probation. Additionally, 360 hours of drug rehabilitation and counseling might be required.
  • Fentanyl Possession with Intent to Sell: This offense, a Class 2 felony, could lead to a prison sentence ranging from 3 to 12.5 years.
  • Possession of Fentanyl Drug Paraphernalia: Considered a Class 3 felony, carrying a penalty of 2 to 8.75 years in prison.
  • Fentanyl Manufacturing: Also a Class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 12 years in prison.
  • Fentanyl Drug Trafficking: As a critical concern in a border state like Arizona, trafficking fentanyl is classified as a Class 2 felony, with sentences ranging from 5 to 20 years. Penalties escalate with larger quantities, and federal charges could lead to up to $5 million in fines and life imprisonment.


Changes Under the Ashley Dunn Act:


  • The Ashley Dunn Act introduces a specific focus on high-volume fentanyl dealers, defined as those dealing at least 200 grams (approximately 2,000 pills). For such offenses, the Act mandates:
    • First Offense: A minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum of 15 years.
    • Repeat Offenders: Potential sentences range from 10 to 20 years.


Comparison and Implications:


The key distinction brought about by the Ashley Dunn Act is its targeted approach towards penalizing high-volume fentanyl dealers with substantially harsher minimum sentences. This is a significant departure from the broader, less differentiated approach previously applied to fentanyl offenses.


  • Increased Focus on Volume: Unlike the previous guidelines, the Ashley Dunn Act imposes stiffer penalties specifically based on the quantity of fentanyl involved, aiming directly at those responsible for large-scale distribution.
  • Elevated Minimum Sentences: The Act raises the floor for sentencing, ensuring that high-volume dealers face a minimum of 5 years for a first offense, which is a more severe baseline compared to the earlier range for possession with intent to sell and even trafficking.
  • Strategic Deterrence: By setting harsher minimum sentences, the Act aims to serve as a deterrent to those considering engaging in the large-scale distribution of fentanyl, reflecting a targeted strategy to reduce the drug's availability on the streets.


In summary, the Ashley Dunn Act recalibrates Arizona's legal response to the fentanyl crisis by specifically focusing on those dealing in large quantities.

How Do Arizona's Sentencing Guidelines Compare to Other States

Here's a comparison of how Arizona's sentencing guidelines for fentanyl distribution compare to those in other select states, highlighting the classification of the offense and the corresponding penalties, including prison length and fines where applicable.


Arizona (Under the Ashley Dunn Act)


  • Offense Classification: High-volume fentanyl distribution is specifically targeted.
  • Prison Length: 5 to 15 years for first offenders dealing at least 200 grams; 10 to 20 years for repeat offenders.
  • Fines: Specific fine amounts are not mentioned under the Ashley Dunn Act, but penalties are significantly focused on prison time.




  • Offense Classification: Drug trafficking, with fentanyl distribution often falling under this category.
  • Prison Length: Varies widely; up to 9 years for certain trafficking offenses, more for larger quantities or if certain aggravating factors are present.
  • Fines: Can exceed $10,000, depending on the specifics of the offense.




  • Offense Classification: Fentanyl trafficking is a specific concern, with penalties increasing with the amount.
  • Prison Length: Up to 11 years for trafficking in larger quantities of fentanyl.
  • Fines: Up to $20,000, especially for higher quantity offenses.




  • Offense Classification: Opioid trafficking, with specific tiers based on drug quantity.
  • Prison Length: Mandatory minimum sentences range from 3 years (for 4-14 grams) to 25 years (for 28 grams or more of fentanyl).
  • Fines: Up to $500,000 for larger quantities.


State Offense Classification Prison Length Fines
Arizona (Under the Ashley Dunn Act) High-volume fentanyl distribution 5 to 15 years for first offenders; 10 to 20 years for repeat offenders N/A
California Drug trafficking Up to 9 years, more for larger quantities Can exceed $10,000
Ohio Fentanyl trafficking Up to 11 years for larger quantities Up to $20,000
Florida Opioid trafficking 3 to 25 years, depending on quantity Up to $500,000

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Defenses to Dealing Fentanyl

In facing charges for dealing fentanyl, defendants may have several viable legal defenses. The effectiveness of these defenses depends on the specifics of the case, including the evidence against the defendant and the circumstances of their arrest. Below are detailed explorations of common defenses:

  • Lack of Knowledge

    • A key defense is asserting that the defendant did not know they were in possession of or distributing fentanyl. This defense challenges the prosecution's burden to prove that the defendant intentionally and knowingly engaged in the drug's distribution. Lack of knowledge can undermine the claim that the defendant had the requisite intent to distribute fentanyl.

  • Unlawful Search and Seizure

    • This defense centers on the Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable searches and seizures. If law enforcement conducted a search of the defendant’s property without a warrant, probable cause, or the defendant's consent, any evidence obtained during that search might be excluded from the trial. This could significantly weaken the prosecution's case if their evidence was primarily obtained through the unlawful search.

  • Insufficient Evidence

    • Challenging the sufficiency of the prosecution's evidence is another common defense. This involves critically examining the evidence presented by the prosecution for its reliability, relevance, and sufficiency to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is deemed insufficient, the charges against the defendant may be reduced or dismissed.


  • Entrapment

    • Entrapment occurs when law enforcement induces a person to commit a crime they would not have otherwise committed. If the defendant can prove that the initiative for the criminal conduct originated with law enforcement, and the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime, they may have a valid entrapment defense. This defense is particularly relevant in undercover operations.

  • Misidentification or Mistaken Identity

    • Misidentification or mistaken identity can be a powerful defense, especially in cases where the prosecution's case relies on eyewitness testimony, which can be unreliable. Demonstrating that the defendant was not the individual who committed the alleged acts of fentanyl distribution can lead to acquittal.

Get Help From Federal Defense Attorney Josh Kolsrud

Josh Kolsrud is a seasoned federal defense attorney with an impressive background, including 14 years as a prosecutor handling over 3,528 cases, many of which focused on border crimes and drug trafficking. His extensive trial experience and deep knowledge of federal laws make him exceptionally qualified to defend clients facing these serious charges.



If you're facing charges and need assistance, Kolsrud Law Offices offers a free initial consultation. You can contact them via email at or call for a free consultation at (602) 638-3790



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Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients



Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

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