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Dallas County man sentenced to 30 years under new Texas fentanyl dealing law

A close-up photo of a hand holding a vial full of clear liquid against a dark blue background. The vial is labeled "FENTANYL."
Jacquelyn Martin
A reporter holds up an example of the amount of fentanyl that can be deadly after a news conference about deaths from fentanyl exposure, at DEA Headquarters in Arlington, Va., June 6, 2017.

A Dallas County jury sentenced a man to 30 years in prison last week in the county’s first prosecution under a new Texas law mandating harsher penalties for dealing fentanyl.

According to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, Dallas Police pulled 33-year-old Richard Leal over Feb. 18, 2023, after multiple traffic violations. Officers found that Leal had cocaine, fentanyl pills, Alprazolam pills, methamphetamine pills and marijuana in his bag. The DA’s office said Leal told police he was able to get thousands of pills and bricks to distribute.

Leal was convicted April 4 of delivering between four and 200 grams of a controlled substance, which is now a first-degree felony underHouse Bill 6. The law passed in last year’s legislative session raises the criminal penalty for dealing fentanyl.

“This significant sentencing marks a pivotal moment in our ongoing efforts to combat the distribution of deadly opioids like fentanyl in Dallas County,” District Attorney John Creuzot said in a press release. “My office remains committed to holding accountable those who profit from spreading such dangerous substances within our communities."

Leal’s attorney James Aulbaugh was not immediately available for comment.

Benson Varghese, managing partner of Varghese Summersett, said these can seem like much harsher criminal penalties for people convicted and the criminal defense attorneys who represent them.

“This arguably high sentence, if you were to compare it to other drug cases, makes sense once you understand that's what the Legislature intended,” he said. “They intended for these to be prison sentences and the punishment range to be very large so that the jury has the opportunity to not only punish the crime, but, in essence, send a message to other people that might be considering committing this offense.”

Possessing even four grams of a controlled substance carries a minimum sentence of 10 years under the new law, which makes a person convicted ineligible for probation, Varghese said.

But the heightened focus on prosecuting people for dealing it reflects the countrywide panic over the growing problem of fentanyl-related deaths.

Like the United States’ long-term disparities in doling out prison sentences for dealing crack versus powder cocaine, Varghese said it will take time for Texas and the country understand the impact of policing fentanyl more harshly.

"I think people are interested in being aware of consequences of different legislation and the effects of sentencing on people and disparities that arise," he said. "I think we're more attuned to the problem, so if there is one, then I hope that we spot it sooner."

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at You can follow Toluwani on X @tosibamowo.

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.