The Drug Overdose Response Immunity Law Encourages Bystanders to Choose Compassion Over Fear
What would you do if someone appeared to be suffering a drug overdose while you were present in the same room? When someone asks you this question hypothetically, you might think that calling 911 is the obvious choice, but the way people actually respond in this situation depends on several other important details. Do you have illegal drugs in your possession, and are you yourself under the influence of drugs? Are you on probation, and did the judge forbid you from visiting the friend at whose house the overdose took place? Is the person who provided the drugs to the victim a mutual friend, and are you afraid of getting your friend in trouble if anyone finds out? In other words, when people do not call for medical assistance when they witness someone overdosing on drugs, it is usually because they fear getting charged with a crime if they do. Pennsylvania law now protects people who render assistance to drug overdose victims against getting unfairly charged with crimes simply for trying to help. If you are facing criminal charges because of any of the gray areas in Pennsylvania’s drug laws, contact a Pittsburgh drug crimes defense lawyer.
The Pennsylvania Drug Overdose Response Immunity Law
A Pennsylvania law enacted six years ago this month has saved many lives. The Drug Overdose Response Immunity law states that you cannot be charged with a crime related to another person’s drug overdose if you transport the person to a healthcare facility or law enforcement or campus security station or if you call for medical assistance and stay with the victim until first responders arrive. You must truthfully provide your name to law enforcement; you must also provide law enforcement with the victim’s name, to the best of your knowledge. In case you needed more motivation to report drug overdoses, keep in mind that most first responders carry naloxone, which is highly effective at reversing opioid overdoses; there is a good chance that you really will be saving a life if you report the overdose.
In the News
In October 2019, 17-year-old Jack Schoenig attended a party at the Chi Phi fraternity house at Penn State, where he inhaled nitrous oxide from cartridges like those used in whipped cream canisters (sometimes called “whip-its) and then began hyperventilating before he stopped breathing entirely. Fraternity members called the State College police when they noticed that Schoenig was in respiratory distress. The police and CentreLife Link EMS first responders arrived at the fraternity house, but they were unable to revive Schoenig, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy revealed that Schoenig’s cause of death was accidental asphyxia caused by inhalation of nitrous oxide. In December, authorities announced that there would be no criminal charges in connection with Schoenig’s accidental death. Meanwhile, Penn State suspended the fraternity because of the incident.
Contact Us Today for Help
The law is on your side if you reported someone else’s drug overdose, but you should still consult a Pittsburgh drug crimes lawyer until you are sure that you will not be charged. Contact the law offices of Gary E. Gerson about your case.