VIDEO: Overdose reporting bill signed into law

A bill encouraging Delawareans to report alcohol or drug overdoses without fear of prosecution was signed into law Tuesday afternoon.

WDEL's Tom Lehman has more:

Under the new law, which has been dubbed the "good samaritan law," those who report drug overdoses will be immune from criminal prosecution for certain drug crimes. The bill also grants immunity from prosecution for offenses related to underage drinking.

"This is not the hardcore criminals and the big drug dealers," said State Sen. Cathy Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke), the prime sponsor on SB 116. "This is for the good kids who just made a bad choice and took their life."

Cloutier said drug addiction and overdose is an issue that affecting members of many families. Several family members of overdose victims were present when the bill was signed at the Carvel State Office Building.

"They all want to heal and save other people's families," she said. "I also have this in my family and it is horrible and this is helping others get through this and how to heal."

The law was named after two fatal overdose victims, Kristen Jackson & John Perkins, Jr.

State Sen. Brian Townsend (D-Newark/Bear), who also sponsored the bill, was an elementary school classmate of Perkins and says people should be able to report overdoses without fear.

"If you're engaged in drug use and your friend begins to go into an overdose, or you yourself have an overdose and you're able to call police still, make sure to call--err on the side of caution," Townsend says.

SB116, which passed with unanimous approval in both chambers of the General Assembly, was amended to exempt higher level drug felonies from its immunity protections.

Townsend says there was debate over which crimes should be exempt, but it was believed those committing Class A, B and C felonies would avoid calling the police.

"We thought that the end drug users, the felony D's, really the ones who we're trying to protect anyway and are more likely to call the police, but it was a difficult balance," he says.

A note on the bill says the measure will go into effect 60 days after its enactment into law.

Copyright © Dec 18, 2014, WDEL/Delmarva Broadcasting Company. All Rights Reserved.
Advanced permission from Delmarva Broadcasting Company required for publication or rebroadcast.