Oneida County District Atty. Scott McNamara said a little-known state law means all criminal drug-related charges against two Hamilton College students must be dimissed because neither a good samaritan nor a victim can be prosecuted if medical help is sought when an overdose occurs.
State penal law was amended on Sept. 18, 2011 to include such incidents, and as a result, drug misdeamor charges against Stephanie R. Bongiovi, 19, and Ian S. Grant, 21, both of New Jersey, were thrown out.
Bongiovi was found in an unresponsive state from a suspected heroin overdose in her Dunham Hall room at 1:50 a.m. on Nov. 14, after her classmate, Grant, called 911 to report a medical emergency, Kirkland Police Chief Daniel English said.
Following a search of her room, she was charged with 7th degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, 4th criminal possession of marijuana, and 2nd degree criminally using drug paraphernalia, all Class A misdemeanor crimes, and for unlawful possession of marijuana, violation. Grant was charged with 7th degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
Bongiovi, who has been identified as the daughter of singer Jon Bon Jovi, was treated at the scene by the Clinton Fire Department and taken to an area hospital. English said the Oneida County Drug Task Force then obtained a search warrant to go through her dormitory room, where investigators recovered evidence leading to the charges being laid against both students.
However, on Nov. 15, the charges had to be dismissed because the 2011 law that states: "A person who, in good faith, seeks health care for someone who is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other left-threatening medical emergency cannot be prosecuted for the possession of heroin weighing less than 8 ounces or possession of any among of marijuana resulting from the seeking of such health care."
This law applies as well to any person who has overdosed on drugs or alcohol.
The DA's statement, citing an analysis of Penal Law 220.78, made this determination: "Therefore, District Atty. Scott D. McNamara is dismissing the charges against both individuals pursuant to the mandates of PL220.78."