"The potential for such unintended consequences is what concerns us," he said.
D.C. police and prosecutors say the bill is unnecessary because people don't currently face prosecution for reporting an overdose and hospitals aren't obligated to report an overdosing patient to law enforcement. But beyond that, it could protect people involved in "serious criminal activity," said Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
Testifying at a D.C. Council hearing, Patricia Riley, a lawyer with the U.S. Attorney's office, said there was nothing in the bill to prevent someone facing arrest from swallowing a pocketful of drugs and reporting an overdose — and in turn avoiding prosecution. She said she envisioned cases in which a person who surreptitiously administered drugs to a stranger or acquaintance, causing an overdose, might go free or that someone overdosing on PCP might not be held accountable for "atrocious crimes" committed before the person sought medical attention.
Plus, said police union leader Kris Baumann, "The people you're trying to target are not the sort of people who respond well to public service announcements. Otherwise they wouldn't be using heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines."
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said he expected to tweak the bill to narrow the immunity and hopes to move on it when the Council returns to session.
DiRenzo, the New Jersey woman, said her son had struggled with addiction since his was a teenager but had been clean for about three months at the time of his death at age 26.
Although she can't be sure how he spent his final hours, she's confident he could have been saved had someone in Camden, where he died, called the police. She became an advocate for the law change after Salvatore's death and cried all day after being told the New Jersey bill was being shelved until next year.
A sponsor, Joseph Vitale, said he plans to try again to pass it. And DiRenzo said she hopes to make a new law part of her son's legacy.
"I couldn't justify him just dying and walking away," she said. "I just had to do something for him."
Follow Eric Tucker at http://twitter.com/etuckerAP .