The problem of fatal drug overdoses is one that’s only gotten worse in recent years. That’s why most states, including California, have enacted some form of “Good Samaritan” law that provides immunity in certain circumstances for those who seek emergency medical help for someone (including themselves) who is suffering from a drug overdose.
The goal is to incentivize people not to flee the scene of an overdose over the fear of being arrested, but is instead an effort to save lives.
What offenses are included in the law?
California’s 911 Good Samaritan law provides immunity from arrest and prosecution for a number of low-level drug offenses. It states in part, “It shall not be a crime for any person who experiences a drug-related overdose… [or] seeks medical assistance for the person experiencing a drug-related overdose, to be under the influence of, or to possess for personal use, a controlled substance, controlled substance analog, or drug paraphernalia, under certain circumstances related to a drug-related overdose….”
The law does not provide immunity for offenses including selling or distributing illegal drugs. It also requires that the person who calls for help not obstruct the work of either medical or law enforcement personnel.
Every state’s law is different
It’s important to note that Good Samaritan overdose prevention laws vary considerably by state. Therefore, if you’re going to college in or visiting another state, don’t assume that the law there (if they even have one) is the same as California’s.
Certainly, it’s always the right thing to seek help for someone who’s having a medical emergency. Beyond that, you could suffer very serious consequences if someone dies because you failed to get help.
The law is somewhat open to interpretation regarding what is considered possession “for personal use.” Further, some law enforcement officers may not know the law as well as they should. Sometimes, it’s not fully clear what is going on, so they arrest everyone and ask questions later. That’s why if you find yourself facing drug-related charges after seeking help, it’s crucial that you call a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you protect your rights.