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How state law can protect “Good Samaritans” from drug charges

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Drug Charges

Being around someone who suddenly appears to be suffering a drug overdose can be extremely stressful – particularly if you’ve also been using drugs. You fear that if you call 911 or go to a police officer or first responder for help, you (and they) will end up being arrested.

Fortunately, states including Pennsylvania, have enacted “Good Samaritan” immunity laws that can protect people from drug-related charges for alleged offenses discovered only because they sought help. These laws have been in response to the fatal drug overdose epidemic that this country has faced for years now.

All of these laws have limitations and requirements for someone to qualify for immunity, and each state’s law is different. Let’s take a look at Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law.

What’s required to get immunity under the law?

The law provides immunity from being charged for offenses involving possession of a relatively small amount of illegal drugs (basically enough for personal use) and associated drug paraphernalia. The immunity extends to violations of parole and probation.

To receive this immunity, the law requires that a person:

  • Provide their correct name and location (if calling 911).
  • Remain at the scene until help arrives.
  • Report the overdose “in good faith.”

“In good faith” means that a person must be reporting it because they want to help the overdose victim and not because police are already there and in the process of a search or arrest.

The law also provides immunity to the person suffering the overdose, whether someone calls for help for them or they seek help for themselves.

What if you’re arrested and charged anyway?

Unfortunately, the law doesn’t always work as it should in the chaos of an overdose scene. Police may arrest someone without realizing they’re protected by the law. That’s why they’re protected from wrongful arrest lawsuits in these situations.)

If you believe you’ve wrongfully charged, however, or you believe that your actions should provide you with some leniency if you’re charged with other offenses because you did the right thing, it’s crucial to get legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights.