Drug War

A City in Ohio Treats Seeking Medical Help When Suffering an Overdose as a Criminal "Public Inconvenience"

The state's ACLU is duly peeved.


The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is peeved with the police department of Washington Court House, Ohio, for a stupidly punitive application of the state's so-called "inducing panic" laws to pile legal injury on personal crisis against people suffering drug overdoses.


As per a letter the ACLU Ohio sent this week to the city's "law director," the city has "charged at least 12 people who suffered an overdose with a first degree misdemeanor under the Inducing Panic law" if they actually sought emergency medical help while overdosing.

That law criminalizes causing "serious public inconvenience and alarm."

The ACLU points out such a practice horribly disincentivizes people seeking medical help when overdosing.

It's not only terribly bad policy, if you at all care about people dying of drug overdoses, it's actually against the meaning of the law, which ACLU insists does not cover police or other city officials summoned to perform their duties.

According to a 1992 court case, State v. Cordell, that the ACLU quotes, it can't be the case that "every time a police officer respond[ed] to anything other than a routine traffic investigation a potential defendant could be charged with inducing panic."

Alas, policies designed to ensure that opioid deaths that could be avoided are not avoided are all too common in the U.S., as see the lack of across the board national over the counter availability of naloxone.

Jacob Sullum from May 2016 on "'Opioid Epidemic' Myths."

Hat tip: Human Rights Watch

NEXT: Colorado Governor Concedes Legal Marijuana Hasn't Turned His State Into a Stoner Hellscape

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The existence of Washington Court House, Ohio causes me “serious public inconvenience and alarm.”
    Please arrest yourselves.
    Thank you.

    1. Been there. It’s a shitty little town. They’d probably be better off if they shut down the entire police department.

  2. Statists just ain’t happy without a human face to stomp on and a boot to do it with.

    1. Wait a minute. I thought libertarians were all about personal responsibility and paying your own way.

      Now I hear its bad for the guv to squawk about taxpayers footing the bill for the consequences of your being able to put whatever you want in your body because Freedom.

      I am confusal.

      1. We’re also against the heavy hand of the State causing needless death, but, whatever.

        1. Tell me how the heavy hand of the state makes somebody take a lethal overdose of a narcotic and I’ll agree with you.

          1. Prohibition. Black market drugs are of unknown purity and dosage.

            1. So no one will die of an overdose in Libertarianland?

              1. That wasn’t the question.

              2. Suicides I suppose.

            2. The guv doesn’t force you to take illegal drugs,
              adulterated or otherwise.

              1. Right, it just prevents you from acquiring legal unadulterated drugs.

            3. Right, because nobody ever dies from too much morphine or oxycodone.

              1. The quetion was how does the state contribute to overdose deaths. Not are all overdose deaths do to illegal drugs.

        2. “We’re also against the heavy hand of the State causing needless death”

          Not sure you understand just who is causing what in these circumstances.

          But hey, it’s totes libertarian to demand the government go rushing in to save people from their own actions.

      2. They are charging them with a crime not suing for expenses.

      3. We’re also about honesty. Calling the police is *not* creating a public disturbance. It’s simply another way to penalize drug users.

        1. You can have a crime for drunk & disorderly but not for high and disorderly?

          The key point is not managing your recreational drug intake responsibly.

          I see the old heart attack being the same thing as drug use argument listed on here too. Equating recreational drug use medical emergency with a food/genetic/lack of exercise type of medical emergency is not being honest.

          More government power is not the answer but sweeping aside the downsides of recreational drug use is not right either.

  3. I don’t know what other way you think police can help addicts.

    1. They can petsit their dogs while they are getting treatment.

    2. Who says they should? The purpose of the cops is to protect us from others not ourselves.

      1. and cops are there to enforce the law.

        If they create the law… problem solved.

  4. Law director doesn’t need to be in quotes like it’s some made-up thing. It’s the official term under Ohio law for what would be the city attorney in most places. (And, for that matter, in most Ohio cities that have a city charter rather than operating under the state general law.)

  5. Well, your complaint is easy to address: just double the fine for dying from an overdose.

    It’s a pretty simple solution.

    After all, if suffering and surviving an overdose causes “”serious public inconvenience and alarm”, dying from an overdose has to be much worse, and deserving of a much more serious penalty.

  6. Wow that is ridiculous.

  7. Statists (and their prog supporters) make for natural humanists.

  8. What about charging people for having heart attacks in public? If you have ever had to deal with that, it is a major inconvenience.

    1. Self-inflicted?

      1. They had it coming what with all those unregulated Twinkies they gobbled down. #WARONTWINKIES

    2. People should pay for their own medical care, either directly (probably the cheapest) or through some sort of insurance they paid for (more expensive), last should be the taxpayer which will be the most expensive

  9. my Aunty Mila just got Toyota Highlander just by some part-time working online with a pc… Get More Information>>>>>>>>>>> https://qr.net/eyGRuC

  10. Dunno about “City in Ohio” but “City in Florida” is a pretty good deadmau5 track

  11. Obviously, this problem is getting worse, because of the bad policy

  12. The doubly silly aspect of this article is that the charges are minor, certainly not on the order of drug possession charges, and are probably being used to drive the person into the legal system in order to get them into treatment

    But we can’t have that because government has no business interfering with their lives.

    Except to save their lives when they fuck up, apparently. And at public expense to boot.

    1. Simple solution don’t send the cops send an ambulance and charge the person.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.