Did you know that drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the state of New Jersey? It’s true, and many people believe that the biggest reason is that fellow addicts don’t call 9-1-1 because they’re afraid they’ll be arrested for their own drug use. With that in mind, a few state legislators crafted a bill intended to prevent those tragedies from continuing to occur by giving “good Samaritans” protections against being prosecuted for drug crimes and overdose-related deaths.

The bill, called the “Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act,” was introduced in Jan. 2012 and contained the following statement of legislative intent:

The Legislature finds and declares that encouraging witnesses and victims of drug overdoses to seek medical assistance by protecting them, in instances where evidence was gained as a result of the seeking of medical assistance, from: arrest, charge, prosecution, and conviction; penalties for parole and restraining order violations; and civil forfeiture of property; saves lives and is in the best interests of the citizens of this State.

Last week unfortunately, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed that bill saying that as drafted, it “fails to carefully consider all the interests that must be balanced when crafting immunities to the protections provided in our criminal laws.”

Specifically, reports indicate, Christie believed the proposed law was too narrowly focused on encouraging more drug overdose 9-1-1 calls, and neglected other important public safety aspects of the problem, including drug abuse prevention and violent drug crimes prevention. In conjunction with the veto, Christie asked legislators to direct the state Division of Criminal Justice to study drug overdose reporting concerns and provide recommendations on a comprehensive approach to solving the problem.

Source: NJ 1015.com, “Governor Christie Vetoes Good Samaritan Bill to Protect Drug Users from Prosecution in the Event of a Drug Overdose,” Ray Rossi, Oct. 8, 2012