Heroin Bill Seeks Immunity for Overdose Calls: "You're Weighing a Conviction Versus a Life"

And there are requirements for this immunity, which could also apply to a person who is experiencing an overdose as well. The bill specifies possession limits; if an individual has more than three grams of heroin, for example, he or she would not be protected from charges. Additionally, if law enforcement has reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain, arrest or search a subject -- separate from the overdose call -- this legislation would not block that.

Opponents, Spencer notes, "say we are being soft on crime. We are not.... If you are a dealer, this law doesn't apply to you."

His proposal comes as the Missouri Recovery Network is raising awareness about its report showing heroin use has dramatically increased in the state -- with deaths due to the drug more than tripling in just four years.

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"We are hoping that it removes barriers to calling 911," Brenda Schell, executive director of the Missouri Recovery Network, says of the proposal.

She says, "What we're talking about is a group of kids who are either experimenting or using heroin and when one shows signs of an overdose...kids just scatter and let the person die...because they are fearful of prosecution."

Spencer, who has seen students firsthand struggle with drug use -- and then tragically lost an eighteen-year-old last year -- says, "Sometimes it's their first time, and their body just goes into shock. Heroin is so cheap and so easy to get ahold of. It doesn't take much to convince a young mind to try something that's that dangerous."

It's not about protecting criminals, he adds. "This gives a...very small window of immunity to allow them to call 911 to save a life."

Here's the draft legislation.

House Bill 296

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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18 comments
Timothy Colmey
Timothy Colmey

This isnt about getting a pass for possession, this is about not getting charged with murder or manslaughter if the person should die from an o.d. The stakes are much higher than just a drug poss charge, which is why people won't call for help.

Timothy Colmey
Timothy Colmey

To you nay-sayers: I bet you would feel differently if it were your friend or loved one who needed medical attention. The only crime should be if you don't call for help when some one falls out from an o.d. Saving lives needs to be the focus, not filing criminal charges.

Riverbend Taxi
Riverbend Taxi

I think you will save a lot of lives this way. Finally a lawmaker that is thinking reasonably.

Mark David Simpkins
Mark David Simpkins

Can I get A free pass on a DUI if I'm the soberest one in the car ? Just a thought. Good law, I vote yes!

Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano
Andee Rose Shymama Gagliano

i think there should be a lesser charge b/c pp are too scared to call 911 when their buddy falls out, and a lot of times, the OD'ed person is left for dead, happened upon by passers-by. but no, it shouldnt be a "tra la la" youre not in trouble. but lesser charges/sentences would be better than this "let's charge the person who gave them/got them their drugs with murder..." b/c that'll merely deter ppl even more from calling 911.

Jason Bryson
Jason Bryson

The amount of people who die every year because people are afraid of calling the police or an ambulance is far higher than the general public could realize. This situation goings on dozens of times a day in Missouri, if not more.

Allison Benoit
Allison Benoit

Yes. They're trying to save a life. And what if the friend shows up at their friend's place and finds them ODing. Because they showed up at a house that contains illegal drugs they would automatically get slapped with a possession charge? That's stupid.

Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

yes. you should also not convict those dropping friends off at the hospital with murder. kind of discourages seeking medical attention.

Deanna Marie
Deanna Marie

NO! The person should be charged for doing drugs and being is possession! I don't agree with this "lawmaker"

Jillian Ashley
Jillian Ashley

I would hate to think that a heroine possession charge would prohibit a friend from saving someones life - but it happens. I believe that in Missouri they passed Valerie's Law, where if you don't seek medical attention for a friend overdosing - it's murder, or a similar charge. Hopefully that's enough incentive.

Mandy Paris
Mandy Paris

Benjamin, you'd have to call the cops on yourself as OD'ing to be immune.

Krista Akers
Krista Akers

Yes, I think they should get a free pass on the drug charges. It goes without saying that people should care more about saving their friend than saving their ass, but people suck, so most wouldn't.

Mandy Paris
Mandy Paris

This is awesome. Yes, definitely agree with this.

Benya Krik
Benya Krik

so if the cops show up at my door im just gonna try to OD. great idea

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