Good Samaritan Law Saves Lives
In June 2011, New York State passed a law that aims to cut the prevalence of avoidable drug-related deaths by exempting individuals from being arrested for possession of drugs in the case of an overdose. Under the law, individuals who call for assistance for a person who is overdosing do not have to fear prosecution for being involved in the overdose. This has been a significant challenge for law enforcement and medical personnel. However, the Good Samaritan law does not offer immunity from arrest for individuals who have outstanding warrants, probation or parole violations. Violations relating to drug manufacture or delivery or crimes other than drug possession are also not exempted.
Research shows that the majority of drug overdoses happen in the presence of others and death as a result of an overdose can be prevented if medical assistance is sought immediately. Sadly, in more than half of the cases of death from overdose, others do not call for assistance. Instead, they try to prevent death through ineffective methods.
The Good Samaritan Law bars arrest and prosecution for personal possession of drugs, drug paraphernalia or underage drinking when someone calls for help to save the life of an overdose victim. A person who, in good faith, seeks health care for someone who is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other life threatening medical emergency shall not be charged or prosecuted for a controlled substance offense.” Please note that the Good Samaritan Law applies to controlled substance and marijuana offenses under Articles 220 and 221 and does not apply in offenses involving sale for consideration or other gain or to prosecutions for other offenses that, depending on the facts, might be charged.
In the past, many people avoided getting assistance for a person who is overdosing or experiencing adverse health problems when they have taken a drug for fear of being arrested. The Good Samaritan Law makes it clear that saving a persons’ life is the priority regardless of who they are or what they have taken. Substance abuse is an illness that has many risks associated with it and getting help in an adverse situation is the first thing someone should do. However, an overdose is not just a risk for people who take illicit substances and many overdoses occur from prescription medication or alcohol. Young people are often at risk of alcohol poisoning as a result of harmful drinking and failing to get help in the case of an overdose from alcohol can lead to death. The Good Samaritan Law was passed just for this situation and to save lives.