The Pennsylvania legislature is currently considering a bill that would offer immunity to people who report drug overdoses. This “Good Samaritan” bill is seen by many as a critical step in saving the life of a drug overdose victim. The bill is a bipartisan effort to save more lives across the Commonwealth.
Recently, drug overdose deaths have increased significantly in Pennsylvania. Heroin use has also increased dramatically over the last few years. Not surprisingly, these events are correlated and law makers are taking steps to try to lower the number of deaths by overdose in PA. As the law currently stands, if a person calls 911 to report a drug overdose and that person is also high, he or she can be arrested for various controlled substance violations. This makes it less likely that a person will call 911 if a friend has overdosed. Movies have portrayed overdose victims being literally dropped on the curb outside of a hospital. The problem is that the doctors trying to help the victim have no source of information about the overdose, which makes it very difficult to treat the victim in a timely manner.
This new law seeks to cut out this incentive to refuse to take action when a person has overdosed. If the new law passes, most people who report a drug overdose will have immunity from arrest. Without the fear of arrest, the state is hoping that people will be more likely to report a drug overdose in a timely fashion. However, there are exceptions to every law. Here, immunity will not be given to drug dealers. Also, the person who calls must stay on the scene so that he or she can provide law enforcement officers with the necessary information about the overdose. They must also give the police their contact information. The report of an overdose must be a good-faith effort to save the person’s life. This means that immunity will not be given to a person who calls 911 after the victim is already deceased.
Other states have had success with similar laws and have seen more people reporting overdoses, and allowing for medical care to be administered quickly. Pennsylvania hopes to follow suit. The law, if it passes, can potentially save many lives in PA. For more information on defense for drug related offenses, please contact our office.