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New Jersey’s Overdose Protection Act Protects Those Who Report Drug Overdoses

October 21, 2013

Unfortunately, there have been many situations involving young people who died as a result of a drug overdose.  Persons with the victim feared the consequences of reporting the overdose, such as being prosecuted on drug charges, and, as a result, proper medical attention was not rendered in time to save the individual.  A new law, entitled the Overdose Protection Act, was enacted to change this. 

In order to encourage the reporting of drug overdoses, the new law offers protection to those who report the overdose.  Prior to the enactment of the Overdose Protection Act, New Jersey law offered protection to individuals who sought medical help for alcohol overdoses in underage drinking situations.  The new law is intended to bridge the gap and offer the same protections in cases of drug overdoses.  Under this law, individuals who seek medical attention for overdose victims cannot be charged with drug possession, use offenses, or probation violation.  In order to qualify for the reporting individual must stay with the victim and cooperate with medical personnel.  Healthcare professionals or bystanders that administer medications to counteract the drug overdose are also protected under the law.

While some individuals views these laws as encouraging underage drinking and drug use, most recognize that the laws save lives.  Indeed, the law has already saved at least one life since it was enacted on May 2, 2013.  According to a Hunterdon County prosecutor, in August a twenty year old that had overdosed on heroin was saved after his friend call 911 to report the overdose.  According to the prosecutor, without the protections offered by the new law, the friend may not reported the overdose based on a fear of being prosecuted on drug charges.

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