ACLU To Washington Courthouse: Stop Criminalizing Overdoses

Mar 29, 2017

The American Civil Liberties of Ohio has sent a letter to Washington Courthouse, urging law enforcement there to stop criminally charging people who have to be revived from an opiate overdose.

Police in Washington Courthouse instituted the policy in February. Under their application of the law, drug users who are revived from an overdose with the antidote Naloxone can be charged with inducing panic.

The ACLU of Ohio says 12 people who have overdosed have been charged since the policy went into place.

Elizabeth Bonham, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Ohio, says she hasn’t seen anything like this before.

“This seems to be a new idea, a unique approach, and I think a really damaging one to the really tragic problem we’re facing all over the state, of opioid drugs.”

Bonham says it’s an inappropriate application of the law.

“It’s unlawful to apply the inducing panic statute to a situation like this, where the alleged panic that has been induced is merely the use of police and EMS resources by a citizen.”

Washington Courthouse Police have stood behind the change.

"We felt it was important to have consequences to these actions," Lt. John Long told WOSU earlier this month.

Long also said the strategy helps authorities track overdose victims and subsequently offer them help.

The policy goes against a trend of many police forces decriminalizing overdoses. 

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