Virginia Needs a Good Samaritan 911 Law to Prevent Fatalities from Overdose
- Virginia General Assembly
- United States of America
Background: In December 2014, the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services gave their report on overdose prevention to the Virginia General Assembly. One of the recommendations in that report is ” ...in addition to civil immunity, some form of criminal immunity be extended to naloxone rescue situations. This would remove barriers to Lay Rescuers calling 911 who fear that either they or the overdose victim will be criminally charged if illegal drugs are present at the rescue site.”
However, instead of following that recommendation, Virginia legislators introduced bills in the House (HB1500) and Senate (SB892) that merely offer to the witnesses and victim the chance to use an ‘affirmative defense’ during trial for criminal possession of illegal drugs. An affirmative defense means that those involved in the overdose still will be arrested and charged with possession, and it is only during court that they will have the opportunity to claim that there were mitigating circumstances (that they called for medical help).
There is abundant evidence that providing immunity from criminal prosecution save lives by encouraging witnesses to call for medical help, but there is little evidence that the offer of an affirmative defense has any effect on reducing fatalities from overdoses.
The fear of criminal prosecution is what has caused many fatalities from overdose, and it is likely that amending the law with the bills as they are presently written will result in little or no change in the reporting of overdoses or the reduction in overdose fatalities. This petition is to change the bills to where they will become life-saving legislation.
The legislation must encourage people to make the call for medical help.
We the undersigned call on the members of the Virginia General Assembly to amend the code of Virginia section 18.2-251.03 in Bills HR1500 and SB892 to include in addition to civil immunity, immunity from arrest and criminal prosecution for misdemeanors and minor felonies (simple possession) for the victim and witness during overdose rescue situations. This would remove barriers to Lay Rescuers calling 911 who fear that either they or the overdose victim will be criminally charged if small amounts of illegal drugs are present at the rescue site.
This is the recommendation made to the Virginia General Assembly in the report to them by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services in December 2014.
We point out that fatalities from drug overdose is a public health crisis and not a criminal justice issue. The tragedy of drug addiction affects one in three families in Virginia and individuals suffering from the disease of addiction need treatment and not incarceration. Think about if your child, grandchild, niece/nephew, spouse or parent were in an overdose situation, would the people that were with them make the call to save their life?
Please, amend bills HR 1500 and SB 892 to provide immunity from arrest and criminal prosecution for misdemeanors and minor felonies (simple possession) during overdose rescue situations, to save lives in danger of being lost through overdoses.
The Virginia Needs a Good Samaritan 911 Law to Prevent Fatalities from Overdose petition to Virginia General Assembly was written by Virginia C.A.N. (Change Addiction Now) and is in the category Health at GoPetition.