There are few things more frightening than seeing someone you know (or even a stranger) overdosing on drugs. Most people’s first instinct is to call 911 and get help. However, if you’ve been using drugs with them, it’s understandable that you’re afraid that police could come to the scene rather than just paramedics. You fear that could lead to your arrest as well as the arrest of the person suffering the overdose.
Fortunately, California (like most states) has a “Good Samaritan” law that gives immunity from arrest and drug-related charges in many cases to those who seek help for an overdose victim and to the victim themselves. These laws are intended to minimize the number of fatal drug overdoses.
What does California 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…” and doesn’t obstruct medical or law enforcement professionals when they arrive. The same applies to anyone “who experiences a drug-related overdose and who is in need of medical assistance….”
The law doesn’t apply in every case or to every drug-related offense. It’s intended to protect those who witness an overdose from being arrested for their own possession and use of illegal drugs that may be discovered only because they did the right thing and called for help.
When doesn’t the law apply?
It doesn’t apply to drug sales and trafficking offenses, DUI offenses or non-drug-related offenses. However, it’s always possible that a person’s actions to help someone else could be considered a factor in charging or sentencing them for an offense that doesn’t qualify under the law. Further, to qualify for immunity under this law, the person who calls for help may not “obstruct medical or law enforcement personnel” when they arrive at the scene.
If you or a loved one is facing drug-related or other charges after seeking help for someone who was overdosing, it’s important to know about this law. It’s also a good idea to have legal guidance to protect your rights and present your case.