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Immunity Seeking Help for an Overdose
Drug crimes are very serious in nature and can take many forms, from simple possession to distribution and trafficking. The laws related to these drug crimes are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of society. Undoubtedly the opioid crisis plaguing our nation is the catalyst for many recent changes, updates and additions to the drug laws currently in place in Massachusetts.
In 2017, there were approximately 1500 confirmed opioid related overdose deaths in the State of Massachusetts. It is no wonder that this is cause for concern and has caught the attention of the state legislature. An attempt to address these issues can be seen in the recently passed 2018 Criminal Justice Reform Act, which contains many amendments to drug crime laws in Massachusetts.
While drug crimes continue to be taken very seriously and are accompanied by often harsh, life-altering penalties, this new 2018 legislation includes provisions designed to help rather then punish individuals suffering from opioid and other drug-related addictions. Drug crimes will undoubtedly continue to be prevalent and the charges severe, but there may be some additional protections available to drug offenders.
A significant law providing additional protections for offenders facing potential drug crimes is G.L. c. 94C § 34A, Immunity when Seeking Help for an Overdose. This statute provides that individuals who are seeking medical assistance for an overdose for themselves or others may under these circumstances be protected from prosecution for certain drug crimes. Further, in the recent 2018 Reform Act the legislature expanded these protections beyond drug crimes and included protections for probation violations, conditions of release violations and parole violations.
M.G.L. c. 94C § 34A provides as follows:
- A person who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose shall not be charged or prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance under section 34 or found in violation of a condition of probation or pretrial release as determined by a court or a condition of parole, as determined by the parole board, if the evidence for the charge of possession of a controlled substance or violation was gained as a result of the seeking of medical assistance.
- A person who experiences a drug-related overdose and is in need of medical assistance and, in good faith, seeks such medical assistance, or is the subject of such a good faith request for medical assistance, shall not be charged or prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance under said section 34 or found in violation of a condition of probation or pretrial release as determined by a court or a condition of parole, as determined by the parole board, if the evidence for the charge of possession of a controlled substance or violation was gained as a result of the overdose and the need for medical assistance.
- The act of seeking medical assistance for someone who is experiencing a drug-related overdose may be used as a mitigating factor in a criminal prosecution under the Controlled Substance Act, 1970 P.L. 91?513, 21 U.S.C. section 801, et seq.
- Nothing contained in this section shall prevent anyone from being charged with trafficking, distribution or possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
As such, under circumstances where you may otherwise be facing various drug charges, such as possession, or found in violation of probation or parole, where any of the necessary evidence in support of these charges or violations was obtained while seeking help for an overdose you may be granted immunity from prosecution under this statute. The application of this statute may vary depending on the circumstances of the incident and the nature of the charges or violation. It is essential to consult with a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney who is experienced with drug crimes and knowledgeable about Massachusetts drug laws.Massachusetts Drug Crimes Attorney
If you have been charged with a drug crime in Boston, it is to your advantage to speak with a qualified drug crime attorney so that you may receive the assistance you need to defend against these serious charges and obtain the best possible outcome for your case.