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Navigating Immunity Under the Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act: Insights from Commonwealth v. Marmillion (2023)

Town Law Publishing April 7, 2024

person resting in a hospital bed

Commonwealth v. Marmillion, 2023 Pa. Super. 267 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2023)

In the case of Commonwealth v. Marmillion, the Pennsylvania Superior Court examined the application of the Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act (the "Act") in the context of a criminal proceeding. This article provides an in-depth analysis of the court's decision regarding immunity under the Act and its implications for similar cases.

Background of the Case

Mindyn Marmillion was convicted of delivery of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, and recklessly endangering another person ("REAP") following a bench trial in the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas. The charges stemmed from an incident where Ashley Richardson died from a drug overdose in a hotel room where Marmillion and others were present. Marmillion administered fentanyl intranasally to Richardson during her overdose, but the trial court dismissed charges related to causing Richardson's death due to insufficient evidence that the fentanyl, as opposed to another drug, was the cause of death.

The Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act

The Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act provides immunity from prosecution for possessory narcotics offenses when a person, in good faith, reports a drug overdose event to authorities with the reasonable belief that another person is in need of immediate medical attention. The Act is intended to encourage individuals to seek help in overdose situations without fear of legal repercussions for drug possession.

Application in Marmillion's Case

Marmillion argued that she was entitled to immunity under the Act for her possession of a controlled substance charge. However, the trial court found that the reporting of Richardson's overdose had not been made in good faith, as there was a delay of at least 30 minutes before calling 911.

Additionally, Marmillion failed to meet her burden of proving that she fully cooperated with authorities, a requirement for immunity under the Act. The record indicated that Marmillion and others initially denied involvement and were not forthcoming with information. There was no evidence that Marmillion had called 911 or spoken to the dispatcher, and she did not reveal the full extent of her attempts to treat Richardson to the authorities.

person resting in a hospital bed

Implications for Future Cases

The court's decision in Commonwealth v. Marmillion underscores the importance of meeting all the conditions set forth in the Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act to qualify for immunity. Simply being present at the scene of an overdose and taking some action to assist the victim is not enough. Individuals must report the overdose in good faith, provide their name and location, cooperate fully with authorities, and remain with the person needing medical attention until help arrives.

The case also highlights the significance of the timing and manner of reporting an overdose. Delays in seeking help or providing incomplete or misleading information to authorities can undermine a claim of good faith and cooperation.

person resting in a hospital bed

The Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act provides a valuable tool for encouraging individuals to seek life-saving assistance in overdose situations. However, as demonstrated in the case of Commonwealth v. Marmillion, the protections of the Act are not automatic. Individuals seeking immunity must adhere strictly to the requirements of the statute, including timely and good faith reporting, full cooperation with authorities, and remaining with the overdose victim. The case serves as a reminder of the legal and ethical responsibilities that accompany the privilege of immunity under the Act. - THE TOWN LAW LLC