NJ Proposes 911 Good Samaritan Law
The New Jersey and Pennsylvania legislature are considering passing bills that will grant immunity to 911 callers for drug overdoses. Accord to a Drexel University School of Public Health researcher, the majority of individuals at the scene of a drug overdose “have used drugs with the victim, have drugs on them, or have a criminal record.” These individuals are scared of prosecution for being at the scene of a drug overdose and as a result do not stay with the victims after they have called 911. This can potentially lead to the deaths of the victims.
New Jersey reports 800 deaths due to drug overdose a year, while Pennsylvania reports 1700 deaths a year. In both states the number of drug overdose deaths is greater than reported deaths in traffic accidents. There is speculation that drug overdose deaths have nearly doubled in the last decade across the country because of the emergence of prescription painkillers as a drug of choice.
There is evidence that nearly half of drug overdoses go unreported by fellow drug users because of the fear of prosecution for related crimes. It is precisely this incentive to not report incidents that the bills in New Jersey and Pennsylvania aim to change. New Mexico was the first state to pass this type of “911 Good Samaritan” legislation in 2007. Since that time, a total of 10 states have passed comparable legislation.
Current Prescription Drug Law in New Jersey
Currently in New Jersey it is illegal to possess prescription drugs in an unlawful manner. While these prescription drugs have legitimate uses, they are also extremely powerful and addictive and can lead to illegal use. When used in an unlawful manner, prescription drugs are considered a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). Due to the highly regulated nature of these drugs, there are many related crimes to illegal prescription use in New Jersey including prescription fraud, prescription forgery, prescription drug possession and distribution, and theft.
Addiction is a powerful force, especially in the context of the synthetic drugs used in modern medicine. It can sometimes drive good people to commit additional crimes other than simple use to feed an illicit habit. While our legislature is working to change the law to help save lives by granting limited immunity to drug users who call 911 during an overdose, it is important to remember that it is still illegal to use or possess a CDS.
Facing Drug Related Charges in New Jersey
As with any CDS, the use or possession of prescription drugs are dangerous and can lead to overdose as well as prosecution for related crimes. Drug penalties remain steep, and so it is critical to do everything possible to defend yourself against these charges.
When facing any drug related charges it is important to consult with your local Burlington County criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can coordinate with you to outline your options, and aid you in fighting charges, especially ones with any mitigating circumstances, like calling 911 during an overdose of another person.
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