With the number and availability of lethal drugs increasing in this country, fatal overdoses are more likely than ever. Minutes can make a difference between life and death.
That’s why most states, including Alabama, have enacted “Good Samaritan” laws throughout the past decade to incentivize those who witness someone overdosing to call for help by providing them immunity from prosecution for their own drug use if it’s discovered because they sought help. Too often, particularly before these laws, people flee the scene out of fear that if first responders, including police, showed up, they’d be arrested.
When does Alabama protect those who get emergency help?
Under Alabama law, a person won’t be charged or prosecuted for a misdemeanor drug charge if it was discovered only because they sought help as long as they had a reasonable belief that they were the first to call for help, identified themselves accurately and remained at the scene until emergency help arrived. The law also protects those under 21 who seek help and meet the requirements noted above from being charged with underage alcohol-related offenses.
These Good Samaritan laws, also sometimes referred to as “overdose immunity” laws don’t protect people from charges for non-drug-related or underage alcohol-related offenses if evidence is discovered at the scene. They also don’t provide immunity for later drug-related offenses that might be discovered. They apply only to the overdose situation.
Of course, things can get chaotic at an overdose scene. Police may think they have probable cause to arrest someone when they actually qualify for immunity under the law. Further, even if they find evidence of another crime, the fact that it was discovered only because someone did the right thing and called for help could cause prosecutors to consider a lesser charge or even dropping the charge. Whatever your situation, it’s always best to get legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights if you’ve been charged with wrongdoing but you may also qualify for immunity.