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New GBI Procedures Prompted by Spill of Deadly Drug Evidence

  • By: Robert Giannini, Esq.
  • Published: July 5, 2017
New GBI Procedures Prompted by Spill of Deadly Drug Evidence

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is working to establish new procedures for transporting dangerous drug evidence after a spill last month inside a Duluth Police Department patrol SUV. According to media accounts, two Duluth Police Officers were transporting a package of furanyl fentanyl, commonly referred to simply as fentanyl, from the GBI crime lab back to Duluth to be stored as evidence.

When they arrived at Police Headquarters, the officers noted that the fentanyl had spilled out into the SUV. Apparently, the corners of the cardboard packaging came open, and the fine powder spilled out into the vehicle. The Police Department was evacuated and the road was shut down for some time as Gwinnett County Fire Department Hazmat crews worked to secure the scene and clean up the spilled drugs.

What Is Fentanyl?

To understand why this spill was so significant and prompted GBI attention, it is important to understand what fentanyl is. Fentanyl, also known by the names Sublimaze, Actiq, or Duragesic, is a potent opioid prescription pain medication often used post-surgery to relieve pain. Developed in the 1960s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists fentanyl as being up to 50 times more powerful than morphine or heroin, depending on the composition.

In the past five years, there have been almost 400 deaths linked to fentanyl overdoses. No one was injured in the spill incident, but the transporting officers were relieved they had not been exposed to one of the deadliest drugs. State and federal officials have warned Georgia law enforcement agencies to take caution when handling fentanyl evidence, as even a small degree of exposure can have serious or fatal consequences. Even touching or inhaling the fine powder can be enough to cause an overdose.

Dangerous Drug Prompts New Packing Procedures

In response to the dangerous fentanyl spill, the GBI crime lab temporarily halted the release of all drug evidence. Since then, the GBI has modified packing procedures to ensure the safety of those handling dangerous drugs. The modified packing procedures include changing how drug evidence is handled and packaged, including new containment protocols and enhanced sealing procedures.

The new procedures come at a critical time for law enforcement agencies fighting the opioid epidemic. Increasing amounts of fentanyl and carfentanil (up to 10,000 times more potent than morphine) are showing up in communities across Georgia. There is also an outbreak of street drugs being counterfeited to look like Percocet, but the pills actually contain dangerous opioid concoctions. People expecting to purchase Percocet off the street are becoming ill or overdosing at alarming levels.

Law enforcement officials are warning Georgians to be cautious if they observe suspicious drugs, powdery substances, or drug paraphernalia. Call 911 immediately and avoid coming in contact with any such substances or items identified.


Robert Giannini, Esq.

About the Author Attorney Robert “Bob” Giannini handles criminal defense and personal injury
cases throughout the metro Atlanta and north Georgia area. With almost two
decades of experience, Bob has the knowledge and experience...Read More