Those present at the time a person overdoses on an illegal substance are in a difficult position. They want to help the person, who is likely a friend, but there is a good chance they have also used drugs. Calling police out to the scene may result in them being charged, even though they were trying to do a good thing by calling for assistance. It is an issue in Texas, and in many other states around the country. Texas lawmakers now want to make that decision a bit easier.
In March of 2019, lawmakers debated Senate Bill 305, which would protect people from minor drug charges after they reported an overdose. The bill has not passed yet, but is similar to other Good Samaritan laws enacted by different states around the country. The only difference is that the law in Texas, if passed, would be quite restrictive compared to those in other states.
“This bill needs to pass and be made into law,” says Stephen Hamilton of Hamilton Grant PC “Think of how many people are needlessly dying in Texas simply because people are scared to report an overdose. The lives of Texans must finally take priority over putting people behind bars.”
Whether that will happen is unknown. A similar bill was proposed in 2015, only to be vetoed by Governor Greg Abbott. The Governor’s stance focuses on reducing the usage of drugs on the streets, not helping those that have overdosed, or those that wish to report one.
To prevent the proposed law from being vetoed once again, this time it comes with many restrictions. One is that the law would not apply to anyone that had a prior drug offense on their record. Additionally, it only protects those that would face minor charges, such as drug possession of a very small amount. Those wishing to report an overdose would also only be allowed to do so once without the fear of prosecution.
If passed, the law would effectively be the tightest in the country. Still, Texas needs some type of law on the books to prevent the many deaths occurring within the state. In this case, it is a matter of some legislation being better than none at all.