The Virginia General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, HB 1821. This new law, effective March 1, 2021, addresses opioid overdoses in Virginia by expanding on previous exceptions to prosecution in the case of drug overdoses.
This Bill amends and expands Va Code. 18.2-251.03. This relatively new law had prohibited prosecution for individuals who were experience a drug overdose, and sought emergency medical care. It also covered someone else who sought medical attention for the individual experiencing an overdose. Now, as expanded, this law also covers those who stay and render aid to the individual experiencing the overdose.
The main difference here seems to be that the law, as amended, contemplates that more than one person may be with the individual experiencing the overdose, or that someone who did not initially seek aid may appear and stay to help. The previous version would have incentivized only the person calling 911 to stay. Now, others who could render aid, but did not call 911, are incentivized to stay and help.
The law prohibits arrest and prosecution for specific offenses:
- unlawful purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol pursuant to § 4.1-305,
- possession of a controlled substance pursuant to § 18.2-250,
- possession of marijuana pursuant to § 18.2-250.1,
- intoxication in public pursuant to § 18.2-388,
- or possession of controlled paraphernalia pursuant to § 54.1-3466
The other requirements are that:
Such individual remains at the scene of the overdose or at any alternative location to which he or the person requiring emergency medical attention has been transported until a law-enforcement officer responds to the report of an overdose. If no law-enforcement officer is present at the scene of the overdose or at the alternative location, then such individual shall cooperate with law enforcement as otherwise set forth herein;
Such individual identifies himself to the law-enforcement officer who responds to the report of the overdose; and
The evidence for the prosecution of an offense enumerated in this subsection was obtained as a result of the individual seeking or obtaining emergency medical attention.
So, you must stay at the scene, and identify yourself. The exception only applies if help is sought before the arrival of law enforcement. Asking for help when the police have already arrived does not count.
Consult an Attorney If You are Being Prosecuted as a Result of a Drug Overdose
Narcan (Naloxone) Availability In Northern Virginia
2020 was the “worst year on record” for drug overdoses in Virginia. Northern Virginia localities have programs to promote the use of Narcan (Naloxone) among lay-people, or non-medical personal, to respond to drug overdoses. To learn more, see below:
There is also a Standing Order in Virginia regarding the provision of Narcan (Naloxone) by Pharmacists.