You called 911 because a friend was overdosing. You stayed with them until help arrived. However, the police showed up along with the paramedics, and you ended up being arrested.
Can you be charged for a crime the police wouldn’t have known about if you hadn’t done the right thing and sought help? Maybe you didn’t do anything illegal, but the other people who were there got out fast and left their drugs behind. What does the law say?
What offenses and violations qualify for immunity?
Florida, like many other states, has what’s commonly known as a “Good Samaritan” law. It’s intended for situations like this. Good Samaritan laws provide some immunity from arrest for specific drug- and alcohol-related crimes for people who seek emergency medical care for someone suffering an overdose – even if they call for themselves.
Florida’s Good Samaritan law states that someone “acting in good faith” who seeks help for someone experiencing an overdose won’t be charged for drug-related offenses, including possession, sale and distribution of controlled substances and paraphernalia “if the evidence for such offense was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.”
This law also protects those who seek emergency medical help for themselves or someone else from penalties for violating a “condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole” if that was discovered because of the call for help.
It’s important to note that this law doesn’t protect people from arrest and prosecution if they find evidence of other types of alleged offenses they may discover at the scene. For example, if a person who calls 911 for an overdose has some stolen jewelry lying around, there’s no immunity for that.
There’s still too little awareness of the law
This and other Good Samaritan laws across the country are intended to save lives. Although some are broader than others, the hope is that fewer people will run off and leave an overdose victim behind or fail to call for help for themselves because they don’t want to be arrested.
However, researchers have found that many young adults who engage in illicit drug use aren’t aware of these laws. Sadly, not all law enforcement officers are knowledgeable about what offenses they cover. If you or a loved one has been arrested after seeking emergency help for an overdose, it’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance to protect your rights.