Good Samaritan law fails to make it to vote in General Assembly

A bill that would have given immunity to witnesses of a drug overdose has failed to make it to a vote in Pennsylvania.

Bill would have protected witnesses of a drug overdose from criminal charges

A bill that would have protected witnesses of a drug overdose from criminal drug charges if they call for emergency help has failed to make it to a vote before the Pennsylvania General Assembly, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. While state lawmakers will have a chance to vote for the so-called Good Samaritan law when they come back into session in September, advocates of drug law reform say action is needed now in order to save lives.

Pennsylvania lags behind other states

As The Inquirer recently reported, Pennsylvania lags behind most other states when it comes to offering immunity to people who seek medical help for people who are suffering a drug overdose. Because witnesses to an overdose may themselves be drug addicts, they often fear criminal charges for drug possession if they report an overdose to authorities. As such, in many cases precious time is lost before an overdose victim receives medical attention.

Pennsylvania had the seventh-highest drug-related death rate in the nation in 2011. In neighboring New Jersey, on the other hand, where witnesses to an overdose are protected from criminal charges, the drug-death rate is well below the national average.

Bill would have "saved lives"

The ACLU expressed disappointment that the Good Samaritan law failed to make it to a vote, saying the bill has the potential to save lives. The bill also would have expanded access to Naloxone, a prescription drug that can help in reversing the effects of a drug overdose. Naloxone can be administered by non-medically trained people and can prevent a drug overdose from turning fatal so long as it used in tandem with professional medical help.

Other states have allowed police and first responders to more easily distribute the pharmaceutical to people without a prescription. While some of those states have seen a minor upswing in prescription drug abuse, it has also helped reduce the number of drug overdose deaths. Pennsylvania lawmakers will have an opportunity to vote on the Good Samaritan bill when the House of Representatives returns to session on Sept. 15.

Drug charges

While Pennsylvanians still await drug reform legislation, for many people in the state a drug charge is a real and very present threat. Drug charges can range from simple possession to trafficking, and since some charges include mandatory minimum sentences they can lead to irrevocable consequences for some people.

Anybody that is charged with a drug crime needs the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A qualified attorney can use his legal expertise to make sure a person charged with a drug crime is treated fairly and respectfully throughout the judicial process.

Keywords: drug overdose, criminal charges, drug charges, Good Samaritan law