RICHMOND (July 1, 2015) – New legislation will take effect in Virginia today, including a trio of bills from Attorney General Mark R. Herring to address Virginia’s heroin and prescription drug overdose crisis. Additional bills to protect children, seniors, and survivors of domestic violence and to promote public safety throughout Virginia will also take effect.
During Attorney General Herring’s 2014 statewide public safety tour, more than 75% of participating localities said that heroin and prescription drug overdoses were becoming a crisis. In response, he announced a 5-part plan in September 2014 that included new partnerships, tougher prosecutions for dangerous dealers, education, prevention, outreach, and legislative proposals that won the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys, public health advocates and others.
“In the last five years, more than 3,000 Virginians have died from a heroin or prescription drug overdose and I cannot accept that,” said Attorney General Herring. “It’s going to take the dedicated work of public health, public safety, and elected officials at the state, federal, and local level to get this problem turned around. Heroin and prescription drugs are claiming the lives of Virginians of all ages and all backgrounds in every corner of the state. It’s a crisis that doesn’t discriminate. I think these bills will help save lives and I thank all the legislators that carried the bills, the family members and advocates who testified to their importance, and the law enforcement professionals and prosecutors that will use these tools.”
Attorney General Herring’s bills included:
HB1500– Safe Reporting (Carr, McClellan, O’Bannon, Rasoul, Rust):
This bill will encourage reporting of overdoses in progress by establishing an affirmative defense for minor possession or intoxication crimes if a person reports an overdose, remains on the scene, and identifies themselves as the reporter. Safe reporting provisions currently exist in 21 other states and the District of Columbia.
HB1458– Statewide Naloxone Expansion (Carr, Hodges, O’Bannon, Rust):
Naloxone is a prescription drug that counteracts the effects of a heroin or prescription opioid overdose. This bill expands the current naloxone pilot project to authorize naloxone use by any law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth. It also provides immunity to law enforcement who administer the drug. Similar authorization currently exists in 23 states. According to the Centers for Disease Control, naloxone successfully reversed more than 10,000 overdoses between 1996 and 2010.
SB817– Access to PMP by Probation Officers (Howell):
This bill will allow probation officers to access Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure their probationers are not getting opioid prescriptions they are not authorized to have.
An additional bill to allow prosecutors to hold dealers accountable when their drugs cause a death was incorporated into HB1427, which was passed by both chambers before ultimately being left in a conference committee.
Additional public safety bills introduced by Attorney General Herring and taking effect today include:
PROTECTING VIRGINIA CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
HB1946/SB919 will allow for a prosecutor to prohibit an internet service provider from tipping off someone who has produced, distributed, or downloaded child pornography so the criminal won’t destroy evidence or flee prosecution. The bills also allow prosecutors to find out the identity of someone posting online advertisements for sexual encounters with children or victims of human trafficking. Such requests have been available to prosecutors and investigators since 2007, and by keeping such requests under seal for 30 days, prosecutors and investigators can more effectively go after these predators and criminals.
HB1908– Powdered Alcohol (Lopez):
This bill bans the importation, sale, possession, and use of powdered or crystalline alcohol to keep this dangerous out of the hands of children.
Read the entire press release here.