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Governor Christie Vetoes Good Samaritan Bill to Protect Drug Users from Prosecution in the Event of a Drug Overdose [POLL]

Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen
Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen

According to an earlier report from Townsquare’s Kevin McArdle,

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey.
Part of the reason for this may be that many of the victims’ friends are afraid to call 9-1-1 because they fear their drug use will land them in prison.

Hence a bill, (A578), was recently crafted called the Good Samaritan Bill, which hopefully would have prevented some of those overdoses from happening.

According to the report:

The legislation would treat the fact that the person sought medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose as a mitigating factor in a prosecution for other drug-related offenses. It would also provide the good Samaritan with an affirmative defense against prosecution if the overdose leads to the death of the victim.

One of the bill’s prime sponsors, State Senator Jope Vitale says, “Hopefully this bill will remove people’s fears and end their hesitation in reaching out for emergency help to save someone’s life.”

One reason why I had a problem with the bill in the first place was the fact that I don’t see drug users as being “responsible”.

That is, if they’re using a drug which poses the risk of overdose, what would make anyone think they’d have the presence of mind or the sense of responsibility to call 9-1-1 in the event the person they’re with is OD’ing?

While I’m not sure that’s what the Governor’s motivation was is vetoing the bill, according to this:

The governor said in his veto message to the Legislature that the bill was too narrowly focused on encouraging more reporting of drug overdoses, rather than other aspects such as drug abuse deterrence, violence prevention and public safety.

“This bill as drafted … fails to carefully consider all the interests that must be balanced when crafting immunities to the protections provided in our criminal laws,” Christie said.

As a former federal prosecutor, I’m not surprised at all by this.

Again, my issue, besides not trusting a drug user to do the “right thing” in case of an overdose; is the appearance that the law gives to the drug user…that is, it gives them a pass.

The report goes on to say:

In place of the bill, the governor recommended the Legislature agree to direct the state Division of Criminal Justice to study drug overdose reporting and to provide his administration and lawmakers with a recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the problem.

The governor’s office declined further comment.

This bill is similar to the “9-1-1: Lifeline Legislation,” enacted in 2009, which provides immunity to underage drinkers if they call for medical assistance for another underage person whose life is endangered due to alcohol consumption.

Five other state have signed into laws similar to the “The Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act.”

Do you feel the Governor was right to veto “The Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act?”


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