United States v. Safehouse

Safehouse is a public health approach to overdose prevention in Philadelphia. Our proposed services include medically supervised consumption. 

In February 2019, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania filed a civil lawsuit asking a federal court to declare that supervised consumption sites are illegal under 21 U.S.C. §856(a), a section of colloquially known as the “Crack House” Statute.  The lawsuit does not seek money or to seize property or criminally prosecute any party.
On Oct. 2, 2019, a U.S. District Judge ruled that “the ultimate goal of Safehouse’s proposed operation is to reduce drug use, not facilitate it, and accordingly, §856(a) does not prohibit Safehouse’s proposed conduct.
We’re gratified that the judge found that federal law doesn’t prohibit Safehouse from operating a facility for the purpose of saving lives and preventing overdose deaths.  This is a major step forward and lays the legal groundwork to enable us to proceed with this critical public health intervention. 
The pleadings in the case are below:


Order and Memorandum Denying Government’s Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings (10/2/19)

Oral Argument, Audio Transcript (9/5/19)

Evidentiary Hearing, Audio Transcript (8/19/19)

Order Scheduling Oral Argument (7/16/19)

Order Scheduling Evidentiary Hearing (7/12/19)

Amicus Briefs in support, in opposition, and in support of neither party (7/10/19)

  • On July 10, 13 amicus (friends of the court) briefs were filed in U.S. v. Safehouse in federal court in Philadelphia. 132 individuals and organizations, composed of 64 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials, 8 states, and 6 cities, filed 11 amicus briefs in support of Safehouse. 7 amici filed a brief in opposition and 4 law professors filed a brief in support of neither party.

Safehouse's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the Department of Justice's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (6/28/19)

Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (6/11/19)

Answer and Affirmative Defenses of Plaintiff/Counterclaim (6/10/19)

Stipulated Scheduling Order (5/28/19)

Safehouse’s Answer, Affirmative Defenses, Counterclaims to Plaintiff’s Complaint, and Third-party Complaint (4/3/19)

Complaint for Declaratory Judgment (2/5/19)