Do Syringe Exchange Centers Provide Legal Immunity In Drug Cases?
Everyone knows that injecting yourself with intravenous drugs is risky even under the safest circumstances, that even a tiny amount of fentanyl can kill, and that it is very difficult to know whether the substance that is about to enter your bloodstream contains fentanyl. Syringe exchange programs, which are sometimes also called needle exchanges or safe injection sites, may not dramatically decrease the number of people in any given community who use intravenous drugs, but they do reduce the number of overdose fatalities and the spread of bloodborne infections such as HIV and hepatitis C. At their best, syringe exchange programs do reduce drug use, because the people who visit them receive health services that they would not otherwise receive. Some people decide to get treatment for substance use disorder when they hear from a treating physician how much drug use is harming their health. Others get the confidence to seek addiction treatment after speaking to non-judgmental people about their drug problems; calling a Lyft to a drug rehab clinic from a syringe exchange center and telling the nurse that you look forward to seeing her again under better circumstances is more appealing and less scary than being taken to rehab in handcuffs. Setting foot in a needle exchange is a good start, but it will not make your legal problems related to pre-existing drug cases disappear; for those, you need a Florida drug offense attorney.
IDEA and Florida’s Needle Exchange Programs
In 2019, Gov. DeSantis signed the Infectious Disease Elimination Act (IDEA) into law; it authorized syringe exchange programs in Florida. As of 2022, several syringe exchange centers are operating in Central Florida, including Hope & Help in Orlando. These centers offer safe disposal of used needles and syringes, and they provide sterile, unused needles and syringes free of charge. They also offer naloxone kits for participants to take home with them. All services are anonymous and confidential, including the needle exchange itself, counseling about addiction treatment, and testing for HIV and other bloodborne infections. The centers collect demographic data about visitors (such as the visitors’ race, gender, and approximate age) so that they can report to the state each year how many people they are serving.
You cannot be arrested or charged with drug crimes for participating in a syringe exchange program, just as you cannot be prosecuted for drug crimes as a result of disclosing your drug use to your treating physician. Perhaps a more apt comparison is that you cannot be prosecuted for drug crimes when you call 911 to get help for an overdose victim, even if there are drugs in plain sight. The IDEA Act, like Good Samaritan laws, are one place where police are willing to turn a blind eye to drugs and drug paraphernalia in the interest of harm reduction.
Contact FL Drug Defense Group About Staying Safe From Drug Charges
A Central Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if, despite your efforts to get sober and, failing that, to use drugs safely, you are still facing criminal charges related to drug use. Contact FL Drug Defense Group in Orlando, Florida to discuss your case.