Fatal Drug Overdoses Increasing Across USA & Virginia
The number of fatal drug overdoses increased almost 10 percent across the United States in recent years, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC, opioids seem to be a driving factor behind the increase of fatal overdoses. Across the United States, opioids caused approximately 70 percent of all overdose deaths in 2017, which is the most recent data available to the CDC.
This CDC report also indicates an increase in deaths from illegal drugs across Virginia in the recent past, providing that:
- In 2014, there were 980 drug overdose deaths in Virginia;
- In 2015, there were 1,039 drug overdose deaths in Virginia;
- In 2016, there were 1,405 drug overdose deaths in Virginia; and
- In 2017, there were 1,507 drug overdose deaths in Virginia.
The most significant increase in Virginia occurred between 2015 and 2016. During that time span, there was a 34.7 percent increase in Virginia drug overdoses. The rate of Virginia overdose deaths experienced much smaller increases in the other years.
In order to help address the dangers of drug overdoses, Virginia instituted laws to help incentivize the safe reporting of drug overdoses. These laws allow certain people to escape criminal charges or prosecution by reporting an overdose and adhering to all conditions.
Safe Reporting of Drug Overdoses
As detailed in Code of Virginia Section 18.2-251.03, there is a mechanism in place for the safe reporting of drug overdoses. This section applies when a person is experiencing a life-threatening condition due to the consumption of alcohol, drugs, or both.
In these extreme cases, any person who reports the overdose to the proper authorities can avoid criminal charges for:
- Possession of a controlled substance (Code of Virginia Section 18.2-250);
- Possession of marijuana (Code of Virginia Section 18.2-250.1);
- Possession of drug paraphernalia (Code of Virginia Section 54.1-3466);
- Public intoxication (Code of Virginia Section 18.2-388); or
- Unlawful purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol (Code of Virginia Section 4.1-305).
In order for the person reporting the overdose to avoid charges for the offenses listed above, that person must:
- Submit a good faith report to the proper authorities concerning the overdose;
- Remain at the scene of the overdose until the authorities arrive; and
- Identify themselves to the authorities who respond to the overdose.
Additionally, Section 18.2-251.03 carves out an exception concerning lawful searches and arrests. If a person attempts to report an overdose during the execution of a lawful search or arrest, it does not qualify for protection under this section. Stated otherwise, a person cannot avoid a valid search or arrest by attempting to report a drug overdose.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need legal help with criminal charges for a drug crime in Virginia, it can be tremendously helpful to contact a devoted Leesburg drug crimes lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP understand the nuances of defending against numerous criminal charges, including drug crimes. If you need legal help with criminal defense, contact us today for a free initial consultation.