MASSENA - Massenas police chief says a state law that could protect individuals from being prosecuted for underage possession of alcohol or small amounts of drugs seems to be flying under the radar.
Timmy J. Currier said many individuals may not be aware of the states 911 Good Samaritan Law, which went into effect this year. It says that individuals and overdose victims can be protected from prosecution for underage possession of alcohol and for holding, or sharing without compensation or benefit, small amounts of drugs if they call 911 in good faith for assistance.
The law, however, does not protect people who are in possession of eight ounces or more of narcotics, or those who sell drugs, including marijuana.
While those individuals are not protected from arrest and prosecution, judges can consider lesser sentences for individuals who seek medical attention for overdose victims even if the full immunity provisions do not apply to them.
Mr. Currier sent out a poster to media outlets on Tuesday with information regarding the Good Samaritan Law.
Its part of what our Drug-Free Coalition is doing. Its one of the projects weve been working on. It was a matter of getting the poster together, he said.
Mr. Currier said the law is designed to encourage people to call 911 to save someones life in the event of an alcohol or drug overdose.
The concern is that you have a group of people together and somebody goes into overdose. Because of their fear of being arrested they leave the person (instead of calling 911). The person doesnt get medical assistance and they die. Those are needless deaths that can be prevented, he said.
We know the drug problem in our community has grown in recent years, Mr. Currier said. To effectively deal with it, enforcement and prevention efforts must go hand in hand. We also must ensure that deaths caused by overdose are prevented when possible and this law goes a long way in that effort by allowing those with small amounts of drugs to call 911 and save someones life without fear of prosecution.
But, the police chief said, it seemed many individuals - including people in the professional field - were not aware of it.
We werent hearing a lot about it on the street. Thats one of the reasons we said maybe we need to follow Jefferson Countys lead. We borrowed their idea to get that poster, he said.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole M. Duve said the law is designed to get help for people.
Drug use is an unfortunate reality these days. With drug use comes abuse and the risk of overdose. We have seen evidence in our communities of families stricken by the needless loss of life due to overdose, Ms. Duve said.
New York states Good Samaritan Law is designed to encourage people to seek help for a suspected overdose victim by removing the threat of arrest and prosecution for the possession of small amounts of drugs, she said.
My office is proud to work hand in hand with Chief Currier and the Massena Drug-Free Coalition to spread the word about the Good Samaritan Law and encourage people to call for help. Together we can all work to save lives.