Maybe you were using drugs with a friend. Suddenly, they appeared to be suffering an overdose. You called 911 to get help. First responders arrived, with police right behind them. Your friend got the help they needed in time and survived. However, you were arrested and charged with possession and use of illegal drugs.
That’s not how things should work. Ohio, like most states, has what’s commonly known as a “Good Samaritan” or “overdose immunity” law. It gives people immunity from being arrested. charged or prosecuted for minor drug crimes if the only reason police discovered the crime was that the offender called 911 or otherwise sought emergency medical help for someone they reasonably believed to be suffering an overdose.
Who is eligible for immunity?
The immunity extends to the person suffering the overdose, whether someone else got help for them or they sought help for themselves. In addition to calling 911, a person can also qualify for this immunity by “contacting in person or by telephone call an on-duty peace officer, or transporting or presenting a person to a health care facility.” Obviously, you shouldn’t drive if you’re under the influence.
As noted, the law provides immunity only for minor drug offenses. These are described under the law as a “misdemeanor or a felony of the fifth degree.”
The law states that within 30 days of the event, anyone who is given immunity under this law must get a drug screening and “referral for treatment from a community addiction services provider or a properly credentialed addiction treatment professional.”
You could still face other charges
If you meet the requirements for receiving immunity from arrest and prosecution under this law and were still arrested, it may be that the full story wasn’t conveyed to police and prosecutors. Note that this law only covers the drug-related offenses discussed and not any others.
For example, if police find an unregistered firearm on someone or stolen goods in their possession, they don’t have immunity from those charges. Nonetheless, the fact that they sought help and possibly saved someone’s life could potentially be a consideration.
Whatever the case, it’s important to know your rights under the law and to protect them. Having experienced legal guidance will help.