What is the Safe Overdose affirmative defense?

emergencyFear of the police or the possibility of facing criminal charges are two factors which may hinder individuals from calling for help in the case of a drug overdose. In an attempt to combat this hindrance, the Virginia General Assembly passed a “Safe Reporting of Overdoses” bill in 2015. This bill states that individuals who seek emergency medical assistance for themselves or for somebody else can be granted an affirmative defense to simple possession of a controlled substance or paraphernalia, intoxication in public, and/or the unlawful purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol. An affirmative defense is a set of facts or facts other than those alleged by the prosecutor which, if proven by the defendant, mitigates the legal consequences of the defendant’s unlawful conduct.

However, in order for the affirmative defense to be asserted, the individual reporting the overdose must remain on the scene until a law enforcement officer responds, identify him or herself to the responding law enforcement officer, and cooperate in any following criminal investigation that is “reasonably related” to the overdose.

If you have any questions about the safe reporting of overdoses, please contact the lawyers of Winslow & McCurry, PLLC at (804) 423-1382 or email us at info@wmmlegal.com.