Senator Chap Petersen’s (D-Fairfax) bill to protect Good Samaritans who call 911 to report drug overdoses has been signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe.
Senator Petersen attended the ceremonial bill signing in Richmond Wednesday afternoon.
“I’d like to thank the Gerard, his students, my copatrons, and the Governor for making this law possible. The next step is to get the word out to young people: If a friend is in distress, you have a responsibility and now you have legal protections. Do the right thing. Make a call to save a life,” Senator Petersen said after the Governor signed the bill.
Petersen’s Good Samaritan overdose protection bill, SB 892, provides an affirmative defense for individuals who take responsible measures to report an overdose, remain at the scene of the overdose until emergency services arrive, and identify themselves to the responding officer.
The legislation does not protect those who commit acts of violence, felonies, or distribute drugs. The bill takes effect July 1st 2015.
SB 892 was brought to Petersen’s attention by Professor Gerard Lawson of Virginia Tech.
Professor Lawson was organizing a class project to lobby state legislators on criminal law reforms. His students had the idea to protect “Good Samaritans” who report a drug overdose to emergency services.
Drug or alcohol overdoses kill hundreds of Virginians every year. According to the Washington Post, an estimated 210 heroin overdoses fatalities occurred in Virginia in 2014, with the highest number in Fairfax and Prince William counties.
SB 892 was supported in Committee by a coalition of organizations and individuals impacted by drug overdoses.
Senator Petersen and Professor Lawson both attended Fairfax High School and were classmates, class of 1986.
Photos of the bill signing are available here, and higher quality photos are free for publication upon request.