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Implementing Good Samaritan law could reduce overdose deaths

The recent overdose and subsequent arrest of rocker Jon Bon Jovi's daughter brings to light the one-two punch of calling 911 to save a life -- and then being arrested. After all, drug possession is against the law, so if police are called to the scene, isn't it their job to arrest those breaking the law?

Not in seven states across the U.S., due to a Good Samaritan law that provides protection for those who call 911 for overdose victims. This law provides limited protection in such cases, with no arrests for small amounts of drugs, misdemeanor possession of residual amounts of drugs or possession of paraphernalia. Removing the risk of drug charges may lead to more people calling for help, which can save lives.

Deaths related to drug overdose, of both legal and illegal drugs, have escalated, surpassing the number of accidental deaths due to car accidents. Thousands of Americans die of overdose each year, yet in many cases such deaths may be preventable -- if someone calls for emergency assistance. However, because making a phone call could land the caller in the back of a police car en route to lockup, people are thinking twice about dialing 911, even when a life is at stake. Although the state where Bon Jovi's college-student daughter lives has a Good Samaritan law, she and the student who called 911 were arrested. Area news reports say according to the recently passed law, they should not have been.

While only seven states have passed a Good Samaritan law thus far, other states are considering similar legislation. Wisconsin is one state that does not have a Good Samaritan law in place, though it is currently being considered. State lawmakers are taking a serious look at preventing the state's rising number of deaths resulting from heroin and opiates as well as prescription drugs like Vicodin and morphine.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Saving Lives By Calling for Help: Overdose and Bon Jovi's Daughter," Gabriel Sayegh, Nov. 14, 2012

  • Our firm handles drug charges and many other types of criminal defense cases. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Milwaukee drug crimes page.

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