Utah considering bill to give immunity to those who report drug overdoses
Like many other states, Utah has struggled with finding the right way to treat individuals who have been arrested for drug crimes. Prisons are filled with men and women who have been convicted of these non-violent crimes, and this has led to budget problems due to the overcrowding.
Recently, a bill has been proposed that would give individuals immunity from certain drug charges if they report an overdose to authorities so that the victim can get medical attention. Drug overdoses from illegal and prescription drugs have resulted in over 500 deaths in 2013, which is a seven-year high, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Supporters believe that the bill is necessary because there have been numerous reports of individuals being left alone after overdosing. People leave and fail to report the incident because they are afraid of being charged with a crime. There had been prior efforts by lawmakers to create additional crimes for those individuals who failed to report these overdoses, but these bills were quickly voted down.
Under the current laws, police may make arrests for drug possession in these situations if they decide that the individuals have been engaging in any type of illegal activity. The new laws would allow charges if the person present is found to be dealing drugs or other more serious offenses. Those who are charged with crimes would be eligible for lesser sentences due to their reporting of the overdoses.
The bill has received support from the law enforcement community, and prosecutors also were consulted for input while it was being drafted. The bill is expected to receive a vote in January, and has been praised by members in both political parties. The measure would make Utah the 16th state to pass this type of a law.
Many individuals charged with a drug crime may plead guilty without realizing some of the consequences that come along with a conviction. In addition to the criminal penalties such as jail or fines, these individuals may face other problems in the future, including difficulty finding a job or obtaining financial aid for college.
If you are facing drug charges, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to begin building a strong defense to these charges. An attorney can explain the charges to you, and help you understand that the evidence that law enforcement will be using against you. If the matter ends up going to trial, you will need someone who knows how to present a strong defense on your behalf.