A bill that could help people in emergency situations is one step closer to becoming a law. The bill would protect people who report a drug overdose and potentially save lives of those who are overdosing. “If you’re in the presence of someone overdosing and you dial 911 you can be arrested with drug paraphernalia, you can be arrested with possession of drugs, you can be arrested for anything and that in itself is obviously a deterrence for people to call 911,” said York County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dave Sunday.”That’s vital because then they will have a sort of protective shield around them and they will be more comfortable in calling 911 to get the first responders there, to make sure that the person who is overdosing gets the medical treatment they need.”
House Bill 1149 passed the House Judiciary Committee, after some amendments, on March 11, 2014. The bill is now in the House for consideration.
House Bill 1140 would provide drug overdose response use immunity. This means evidence may not be admitted against a defendant in a probation or parole violation hearing, or prosecution based on statements made by the defendant reporting a drug overdose.
The legislation would provide for immunity only applies if (1) the person reasonably believed that he or she was witnessing a drug overdose and that person was in need of immediate medical attention to prevent death or serious bodily injury due to a drug overdose; (2) the individual provided their own name and location and cooperated with the law enforcement officer or emergency personnel; and (3) the individual remained with the person in need of medical attention until emergency health care providers arrived.
This immunity will not apply if the person who reports the overdose provided the drugs or is dealing drugs.
This bill would also help prosecutors go after those who deal the drugs. “If to save lives, we give people immunity to call 911, then that’s goal number one,” said Sunday. “With regard to prosecuting criminals, ultimately what this does is this creates a situation where we have someone who is going to call 911, that’s someone who is going to put a face to this incident. That’s someone that could be a witness, and that’s someone that could tell us what happened, who they got the drugs from. That would be a very important asset for us to have so that we can prosecute these cases. Because as of right now, when someone overdoses, no one calls 911, and horribly they are found by themselves and alone.”
“According to the Center for Disease Control’s most recent data, drug related deaths have roughly doubled from the late 1990’s to 2006. Additionally, in sixteen states – including Pennsylvania, the number of drug related deaths have overtaken the number of deaths related to traffic accidents. One reason that an individual might not receive medical attention is the fear of being caught with illegal drugs. Under the present statute, there is no immunity for drug related charges if an individual is attempting to summon the help that is needed,” said prime sponsor of House Bill 1149, Ron Miller.
Rep. Miller hopes the bill will go up for a vote in the House by early April 2014.