The opioid epidemic is rampant in West Virginia. Regardless of socioeconomic status, age, gender, or race, we all know someone in our family or community who has been affected. West Virginia ranks at the top in terms of opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States, the majority of which are attributable to synthetic opioids and heroin.
The Overdose Prevention and Clemency Act
In 2015, West Virginia enacted the Alcohol and Drug Overdose Prevention and Clemency Act. The Act provides that a “person who, in good faith and in a timely manner, seeks emergency medical assistance for a person who reasonably appears to be experiencing an overdose may not be held criminally responsible for” certain crimes including:
- Purchasing alcohol with a fake ID;
- Possessing alcohol while under the age of 21;
- Possessing a controlled substance;
- Public intoxication; and
- Drinking alcohol in a public place.
W.Va. Code § 16-47-4(a). To be eligible for immunity, the person must remain with the person who needs medical assistance; identify him or herself if requested to do so by emergency medical personnel and law enforcement; and cooperate and provide relevant, requested information that is needed for the treatment of the person who needs medical assistance. W. Va. Code § 16-47-4(c). In certain circumstances, the immunity may apply to the person who overdosed. W.Va. Code § 16-47-5.
Why Grant Limited Immunity for drug possession?
The Alcohol and Drug Overdose Prevention and Clemency Act encourages citizens to intervene in drug and alcohol overdose situations and seek life-saving emergency medical assistance for others without fear of being arrested for certain crimes. W.Va. Code § 16-47-2(b). An alternative policy runs the grave risk that citizens will not seek medical attention for someone who overdosed for fear of being prosecuted for their own misdeeds. Life is finite. Our government should take measures to encourage citizens to help others and the Act does precisely that.
Barney Law PLLC represents persons charged with illegal drug possession and other criminal charges. Feel free to call us at 304-932-8775 to discuss the specifics of your unique situation.