A new disturbing trend is emerging that poses a threat to both other vehicles and pedestrians on and near our roads. As the U.S continues coping with the “opioid epidemic”, law enforcement personnel has encountered accidents where the driver has “overdosed” while behind the wheel. A report out of Virginia says all U.S. states are encountering the problems associated with abuse of heroin and pharmaceuticals for pain treatment. They estimate the number of individuals with an addiction to pain medication is approaching 2 million. Many make the transition from the pills over to heroin once they are no longer able to access a prescription. Medical responders and law enforcement are able to revive the victims with Naloxone, which is now available in the form of a handheld injector. Unfortunately, many witnesses to overdoses are reluctant to call for emergency assistance.
Impact in Colorado
Tamara Keeney, with the Colorado Health Institute, says “the biggest surprise has been the death rate increases”. The number of drug-overdose deaths had doubled recently. The counties with the most widespread problems are Denver, Adams, and Pueblo. The number of heroin users has increased based on lower costs and easier accessibility compared to prescription meds.
Witnesses Reluctant to Call 911
Accidental drug overdoses are now the largest cause of accidental death in the U.S. There are often witnesses when these overdoses occur; however, many are fearful of arrest for related charges and decide not to call for emergency assistance. Unlike in situations of a heart attack, where witnesses are very likely to call 911, many just fear an encounter with police. Over 20 states established limited immunity provisions to encourage individuals to call for emergency help without fear of facing arrest for minor drug-related charges. These laws are referred to as “Good Samaritan” laws.
Colorado Good Samaritan Law
C.R.S 13-21-108 states those rendering emergency care or assistance are not to be held liable for civil penalties unless they exhibited willful negligence in doing so. This statute is geared toward civil immunity for medical personnel and responders. In C.R.S 18-1-711, immunity is available for criminal charges for those who report an overdose as follows:
Immunity from arrest if:
- They report an emergency drug or alcohol overdose to law enforcement, 911, or a medical provider
- They stay at the scene of the event until law enforcement or emergency medical teams arrive
- The person identifies themselves and cooperates with law enforcement, emergency staff, or a medical provider
- The offense stems from the events which the drug or alcohol overdose arose.
Immunity applies the following charges:
- Possession of certain drugs
- Controlled substance abuse
- Possession or usage of marijuana
- Transferring or dispensing marijuana
- Use or possession of synthetic cannabinoids
- Drug paraphernalia possession
- Underage usage of alcohol or marijuana
If you or a loved one was harmed in a motor vehicle accident involving an intoxicated driver, you may be eligible for reparations for your hardship. Make the call to The Law Firm of Jeremy Rosenthal today to discuss the circumstances of your case.