NJ and the country are in the midst of a vast opiate epidemic. Countless families are being ruined and too many lives are being lost, due to widespread (and growing) addiction to prescription opiates (Oxycontin, Percocet, morphine) and illegal heroin abuse.

One of the biggest factors contributing to fatalities is that many addicts are terrified to seek medical assistance during overdose, because they fear being arrested for use and/or possession. Expecting rough treatment from police, prosecutors and judges, many young addicts chose to "rough it out," risking death over jail-time and unaffordable court fines and penalties.

In 2013, Governor Chris Christie passed the NJ Overdose Prevention Act, in order to prevent so many young lives from being needlessly lost in such a way. NJSA 2C: 35-31(a), created by the act, creates legal immunity for those seeking emergency medical treatment during an overdose. As such, even if they have drugs or paraphernalia on their person, or are under the influence of drugs, they cannot be prosecuted if they were seeking medical attention for an overdose.

The Law states that “a person who experiences a drug overdose and who seeks medical assistance or is the subject of a good faith request for medical assistance pursuant to section 4 of this act shall not be: (1) arrested, charged, prosecuted or convicted for obtaining, possessing, using, being under the influence of or failing to make lawful disposition of a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog pursuant to subsection (a), (b), or (c) of NJS 2C:35-10.

The NJ State Attorney General's Office has issued a number of directives (2013-1, 2014-2, et al) to prosecutors, and police, explaining the law and ordering their compliance. That said, a number of courts continue to ignore the directive, or try their hardest to circumvent its protections (and pressure Defendants into pleading guilty to lower charges), thereby putting countless young lives at risk. While the law (on its face) grants legal immunity for those seeking emergency medical attention, addicts in certain townships know that these protections exist only on paper, due to sporadic recalcitrance and refusal to comply on the part of the legal system.

While there's absolutely no excuse for dealing or selling drugs (my firm refuses to represent drug dealers), my law office and the State of New Jersey have total sympathy for those suffering from the ill-effects of addiction. In order to keep the mortality rates as low as possible, everybody needs to do their part. And that includes maintaining the viability of the NJ Overdose Prevention Act, by ensuring compliance at the state, county and municipal levels.

If you or a loved one have been charged with (or convicted of) possession of CDS or paraphernalia while seeking emergency medical attention for overdose, then contact the Law Office of Robert J. Wittmann today at 856-873-3730 for a free consultation about the legal defenses and remedies at your disposal.



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