TUCSON, ARIZONA – February 9, 2022 – Today, Pima County Attorney Laura Conover will testify before the House Judiciary Committee of the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol to continue her work advocating for urgently needed reforms to the cash bail system, while also speaking out against proposed legislation that, if passed, would exacerbate failed drug policies.
Conover will speak in opposition to House Bill 2021, which would further criminalize substance use disorder and contradict Arizona’s Good Samaritan Law on opioid and fentanyl overdoses.
The bill would make “transferring” a dangerous drug or narcotic drug to another person who dies from an overdose within 24 hours a “drug trafficking homicide” punishable by up to 29 years in prison. It would allow for “the rebuttable presumption” that the drug that was transferred caused the death.
“The failed logic of this bill is that we can arrest and incarcerate our way through this epidemic of opioid addiction,” Conover said, noting that the bill would serve as a deterrent for people who might otherwise call for help when someone suffers an overdose. Under the Good Samaritan provisions of the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, passed and signed by Governor Doug Ducey in 2018, people calling 9-1-1 to help save another person’s life can do so without fear of being arrested.
“HB 2021, however, exposes roommates and best friends and lovers of someone who often is in extreme pain to liability and excessively long prison sentences that would likely deter someone from calling for help,” Conover said. “This bill is contradictory to the goals of our Good Samaritan Law.”
In addition to her testimony on HB 2021, Conover is expected to speak today to members of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Walt Blackman, in support of her own proposal to overhaul Arizona’s use of cash bail. In August, Conover announced new internal PCAO guidelines for initial appearances at which prosecutors would focus their arguments for or against release conditions on a person’s potential risk of ongoing harm to the community.
“The cash bail system fails us on both ends of the spectrum. If someone is charged with a violent crime, but they can pay a high bond, they simply walk right out of jail,” Conover said. “Cash bail criminalizes poverty, and those who have been arrested for non-violent offenses but cannot afford to pay are trapped.
“My legislative proposal will reverse the wide-ranging, harmful impacts on the community caused by cash bail,” Conover added.
A livestream of today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, including Conover’s testimony, can be viewed at bit.ly/0209judcmte.