With a national spike in drug deaths, advocates are pushing for bills that would shield people from prosecution if they are in possession of a small amount of drugs but seek medical help for themselves or someone else after an overdose.

Patty DiRenzo never thought she would hear the knock of police at her door in Blackwood, New Jersey saying that her son had died of a drug overdose in her car in Camden and was robbed by someone in the passenger seat after the incident.

“My thought was, if the person just called 911, even if they ran, you have one to three hours to be saved.”

Eight states have passed laws that would protect people from being arrested if they call police when they or someone they’re with has overdosed, if it is a small possession of drugs.

“I don’t want another parent to go through this, so if I could save another life its so worth it” said DiRenzo.

Rhode Island, Illinois, Florida, Colorado and New York have passed laws in the past two years.

The measures have encountered resistance from some police officials and law-and-order legislators, who say the proposals are tantamount to get-out-of-jail-free cards, condone drug use, and could prevent police from investigating illicit drug dealing or juvenile drug use.

Advocates contend the laws are written in such a way to limit the immunity to drug possession, meaning that other crimes police encounter — such as a basement lab that churns out large supplies of narcotics — would remain illegal.

Critics of the laws fear they could be easily exploited to allow for a variety of illegal conduct. A New Jersey bill, for instance, stalled this year amid concerns from the state attorney general that the promises of immunity were overly broad.

Officials said the bill could be construed as shielding from prosecution someone like Conrad Murray, the California doctor convicted of involuntary manslaughter for supplying Michael Jackson with the anesthetic propofol as a sleeping medication, said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the office.

“The potential for such unintended consequences is what concerns us,” he said.

 

(The Associated Press contribued to this report)