Lehigh Valley

Northampton Co. DA wants immunity bill for drug overdose situations

Morganelli: Bill would work like underage drinking immunity law already in place

Morganelli supports drug immunity bill

EASTON, Pa. - Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli is pushing for an immunity bill in drug overdose situations.

According to Morganelli, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee will vote on the measure Tuesday.

If written into law, the bill would grant immunity from prosecution on some minor drug charges for people who report drug overdoses to emergency responders.

Similar measures are already in place in 19 other states, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

The bill was introduced last year by Pa. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.

It passed unanimously in the senate.

Morganelli argues the measure would prevent drug overdose deaths.

"It doesn't mean we are soft on drug dealers or drug users, not at all... When we have a someone in a situation where a life is at issue, and someone's life can be saved, we have to take the priority of the life over the prosecution over a minor drug case," Morganelli said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, overdose deaths more than doubled from 1999 to 2010.

The Pennsylvania State Coroners Association reports that in 2013, there were 444 multi-drug toxicity overdoses in 2013 in Pennsylvania. That includes 40 deaths in Lehigh County and 22 in Northampton County.

In addition, Morganelli said the bill would work similarly to a law already in place in Pennsylvania, that gives immunity to underage people who call emergency responders to help a friend with a life-threatening, alcohol related illness.

That bill was passed in to law in 2011.

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