Virginians who feel that they may be experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either seek medical help just to potentially be criminally charged with driving under the influence or drug use, or they do nothing and put their health and lives at risk. Luckily, the Virginia state court of appeals recently issued a decision that widens the state’s medical amnesty law, Code §18.2-251.03, a law that shields individuals from criminal charges if they seek medical attention because of a drug or alcohol overdose.
Facts of the Case
According to the decision, the defendant-appellant was arrested outside of an emergency room for controlled substance possession and driving under the influence. Police escorted him into the emergency room. Once inside, the defendant began to make suicidal statements and represented that he chose to go to the emergency room because he was thinking about suicide. The defendant further explained that he believed drugs to be the cause of these thoughts, because he had smoked crack cocaine and used heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.
When the state attempted to use evidence of the defendant’s drug intoxication at trial, the defendant’s counsel attempted to suppress that evidence, arguing that the defendant was attempting to seek medical care for himself and should be immune from those charges. The trial court denied the motions to suppress the evidence and dismiss the drug charges, saying there was no evidence the defendant was experiencing a life-threatening condition.