Skip to Content

New Idaho law imposes mandatory minimum sentence on fentanyl trafficking


IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - This month, a new state law imposing mandatory minimum sentences for individuals caught possessing fentanyl takes effect.

The new law creates a minimum sentence of three years and a fine of at least $10,000 for a person carrying four grams of fentanyl, or at least 100 fentanyl pills.

According to Sgt. Brian Lovell of the Fraternal Order of Police, the law is targeted at fentanyl traffickers, not those suffering from addiction. 

"The trafficking law is designed for those people that are selling and in the business of selling and distributing large amounts of illegal drugs." said Sgt. Lovell. "Amounts that are beyond personal use. So that's their business to do that."

The controversial bill was closely scrutinized as it passed through the Idaho House and Senate.

Opponents of the new law argue that mandatory minimums are ineffective.

"We know that the data says that mandatory minimums don't work to actually deter the use of drugs and to decrease the crime rate or incarceration," Representative Melissa Wintrow told state senators as she argued in opposition to the bill. "These kind of bills don't get the kingpin. What it does is unintentionally, or I can't speak to intention, cast a wide net and gets folks who are those mules going through our state."

"I say, you want to see the proof, look outside your window," Representative Chris Trakel told the assembled senators. "That's the effect of mandatory minimums. We are not San Francisco. We're not Portland, Oregon. We're not Rhode Island. We are not PA. Where you go out there and there's hypodermic needles laying all over the ground, all over the benches, drug addicts lining the streets like zombies."

Opponents have also criticized the amount of fentanyl the bill specifies as trafficking. They fear juveniles and people with substance use addictions could be punished instead of getting help.

Two weekends ago, I met with 22 people who were in a drug and alcohol recovery program," Senator Phil Hart told the assembly on February 15. "Half of those people were fentanyl users, users. And of the half hour of those 11, every one of them had had at one time the amount of drugs that this, bill would, call you a trafficker with. That's 100 pills and puts you in prison for three years. These were just people who were personally using the drug. And we're not trafficking."

But according to state law enforcement officers, that won't be the case.

"You can help separate the people that are in the business of distributing those illegal drugs from the people that are using and abusing," said Lovell. "They may need some consequences, of course, but also some rehabilitation resources, things to help them get out of, that world and get on their feet."

According to Idaho State Police, Bonneville County saw a decrease in violent crimes and reportable offenses in 2023 compared to previous years.

The only offense with a significant increase was drug and alcohol arrests, which went up 21.4% from last year.

As for fentanyl, the drug made up 49% of overdose deaths in 2022 alone.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content