With the number of drug overdose fatalities headed in the wrong direction in recent years, states have been enacting laws that protect those who get help for someone who appears to be suffering an overdose as well as the person overdosing. These laws are designed to encourage people not to flee the scene or die alone without reaching out for help because they fear being arrested for possessing and using illegal drugs.
These laws typically provide immunity from arrest and prosecution for relatively minor drug charges. They aren’t meant to let people escape consequences for things like drug trafficking or for non-drug-related crimes. Each state’s law has its own requirements to qualify for immunity from charges.
What is required to qualify for immunity under the law?
Kentucky’s law applies to those who make a “good faith” effort to get medical aid for someone (including themselves) whom they believe is suffering a drug overdose. “Good faith” means that they sincerely want to get help.
This would exclude anyone who reports an overdose “during the course of the execution of an arrest warrant, or search warrant, or a lawful search.” Further, they need to remain on the scene until medical assistance arrives.
Kentucky’s Supreme Court has further clarified that a person needs to have a reasonable belief that they or someone else is suffering an overdose, even if they’re wrong. Under the Good Samaritan law, an overdose is an acute condition of physical illness, coma, mania, hysteria, seizure, cardiac arrest, cessation of breathing, or death which reasonably appears to be the result of consumption or use of a controlled substance… that a layperson would reasonably believe requires medical assistance.”
Certainly, overdose scenes can be chaotic and confusing. People may still be arrested and charged for a drug-related crime even though they qualify for immunity under the law. If that’s happened to you, having experienced legal guidance can help you protect your rights and make your case for immunity.