State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) is drafting legislation to strengthen a Virginia law that protects people from arrest or prosecution for substance-related crimes when experiencing or reporting overdoses. The law was originally passed in 2015 to make sure that people needing emergency medical attention could get needed care. Morrissey said that Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor’s office is circumventing the law.

In June police responded to a narcotics-related medical crisis with a person who had a previously suspended sentence. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Russel Henderson sought to have that suspension reversed, since the defendant’s use of narcotics violated the good behavior provision of the suspended sentence. Henderson asked for a show cause order — a court order requiring someone to prove something to the court. In this case, the order would require the defendant to demonstrate why the suspended sentence shouldn’t be revoked.

The bill Morrissey is proposing will add more clarifying language to the good Samaritan law: “No individual shall be subject to arrest, or prosecution, show cause, probation revocation, or parole violation for the unlawful purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol pursuant to section 4.1-305, possession of a controlled substance pursuant to section 18.2-250, possession of marijuana pursuant to section 18.2-250.1, intoxication in public pursuant to section 18.2-388, or possession of controlled paraphernalia pursuant to section 54.1-3466.”

Taylor is part of the Virginia Progressive Prosecutors for Justice, but Morrissey said, “What can I call Shannon Taylor? This chameleon that is trying to appeal to both conservatives and Republicans. She says she’s a progressive Democrat when she comes down to our caucus.”

Taylor’s office didn’t respond to an inquiry sent Friday, a federal holiday.

“That is completely inconsistent with what we did in the General Assembly,” Morrissey told The Virginia Star. “She’s going to do an end run around what we were strictly prohibiting them from doing.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Senator Joe Morrissey” by Senator Joe Morrissey. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Anderskev. CC BY 3.0.