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Governor Kasich recently signed into law House Bill 110—also known as the 911 Good Samaritan Law in an effort to curb the number of fatal overdoses in the state. As a result, starting in September 2016, people in Ohio who call 911 to report a drug overdose will no longer face criminal charges or arrest for drug possession. But critics of the law claim that it may actually dissuade some people from calling for help in the event of an overdose.
Although House Bill 110 provides immunity from prosecution to both the caller and the person having an overdose, key provisions of the law have raised eyebrows within the drug policy reform community:
According to State Senator Mike Skindell, “the law may prevent people who have overdosed from calling for medical assistance because they fear ending up in jail.” Additionally, the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance was also dismissive of Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law. A spokesperson stated, “This bill has more holes in it than Swiss cheese and could cost people their lives.”
Indeed, the law explicitly puts a large group of people in a situation where it’s too risky to call 911 during a drug overdose. Almost 30,000 Ohioans are on parole, which means they do not benefit from immunity for drug possession when calling 911.
Many opiate addicts have several overdoses over the course of their lives, but the law removes immunity after the second 911 call resulting from a drug overdose. This means a significant portion of the Ohioans most at risk of an overdose may not be willing to call 911 when it happens.
Representative Denise Driehaus, who sponsored House Bill 110, views it as temporary measure in a multi-pronged effort to combat Ohio’s growing opiate abuse epidemic, stating, “While we try to tackle the over prescribing, the addictive nature of opioids, how it leads to heroin, all the things we are learning about — in the meantime we need to save lives.”
While Dreihaus acknowledged that more can be done, she also defended some controversial portions of House Bill 110, such as its information sharing provision. Modeled after a program already in place in Hamilton County, information sharing allows police and social workers to coordinate their efforts in curbing heroin abuse. According to Dreihaus, the Hamilton Country program is not resulting in any arrests.
Opiate addiction is a medical condition, and it should not be treated as a crime. Until Ohio’s laws treat drug abuse as a public health issue instead of a criminal problem, the Columbus criminal defense lawyers of Luftman, Heck, and Associates will be ready to help accused drug users to retain their rights, freedom, and dignity.
If you’ve been charged with heroin or opioid possession, call us today at for a free and confidential consultation of your case.