The crisis of fatal drug overdoses throughout the U.S. has incentivized lawmakers to take steps to encourage people to call for emergency help for themselves or others. Getting this help can often mean the difference between life and death. However, too many people are afraid that if they call 911, they’ll end up being arrested for their own drug possession or use.
These “Good Samaritan” laws typically provide immunity from prosecution for personal drug use if police discover it only because someone called for help. State laws vary in their details. Let’s look here at California’s law.
What does the law say?
California law states that “it shall not be a crime for a person to be under the influence of, or to possess for personal use, a controlled substance, controlled substance analog, or drug paraphernalia, if that person, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for another person experiencing a drug-related overdose….”
The law applies to the person who seeks help as well as the person who is experiencing the overdose. This includes someone who calls for help for themselves.
When doesn’t the law offer protection?
The law doesn’t apply to more serious drug-related offices, like trafficking. It also doesn’t provide immunity for non-drug-related offenses that are discovered because police were called to the scene of an overdose. Further, the person who called needs to cooperate with police and other first responders and not obstruct their work.
While law enforcement officers know the law (or should), things can be chaotic at an overdose scene. If you believe you were wrongly charged with a drug-related offense after seeking help, it’s crucial to get legal guidance as soon as possible. If you’re facing non-drug-related charges after calling for help, your actions could be used to seek a lesser charge or penalty. Whatever the situation, it’s crucial to protect your rights.