There’s no question that the number of drug overdoses and fatalities has been on the rise. Most of these involve opioids. Some involve drugs that are presented as painkillers but are actually even more dangerous drugs like fentanyl.
Southern states have been particularly hard hit. However, it’s a nationwide problem among people of all races, ages and income levels and those living in rural, urban and suburban areas.
It’s been estimated that some 40% of fatal overdoses occur while someone else is present. Often, they’re afraid to call 911 out of fear they’ll be arrested for their own drug possession. That’s why lawmakers across the country – including here in Alabama – have enacted what are often called “Good Samaritan” laws to encourage people to get help for others without fear of legal consequences.
Who qualifies for immunity from prosecution?
Under our state’s law, a person cannot be prosecuted for any misdemeanor drug-related offense or an underage alcohol offense if law enforcement learned of it only because that person was seeking help for someone else.
To qualify for this immunity, the person who seeks emergency assistance must:
- Act “in good faith, upon a reasonable belief that he or she was the first to call for assistance.”
- Provide their real name when they call 911 or otherwise seek emergency assistance.
- Remain at the scene “until help arrives.”
It’s probably not a good idea to try to rush out the minute police and/or first responders show up – not just because it makes you look suspicious. The more assistance you can offer regarding what the person took, how much and when, the greater the chances are of their survival.
In the confusion and chaos of an overdose scene, law enforcement may not know precisely what happened. It’s not unheard of for someone to wrongfully be arrested and then let go when things become more clear. However, if you’ve been wrongfully charged with a drug-related offense after seeking help for someone you reasonably believed was suffering an overdose, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and your future.