If you’re with someone when they appear to suffer a drug overdose, it can be an extremely frightening experience. Unfortunately, some people are so fearful that if they call 911, police will show up and start arresting those at the scene for the drugs in their possession, that they leave without calling for help. Too often, the person who’s overdosing dies because they didn’t get the necessary emergency treatment. This also happens to people afraid to call 911 for their own overdose out of fear of arrest.
That’s why most states, including New Jersey, now have some type of “Good Samaritan” immunity law that protects people who call for help for an overdose from prosecution for any personal drug possession and use discovered only because they sought emergency help.
What does New Jersey law say?
The law provides immunity from prosecution for the possession and use of illegal drugs, prescription drugs that were illegally obtained and drug paraphernalia when the offender is the first to call for emergency help on their own behalf or on behalf of someone else. Further, if the use of drugs is a violation of a person’s probation or parole requirements, that probation or parole won’t be revoked if the violation was discovered because the person sought medical assistance.
The same immunity applies to a person who “is the subject of a good faith request for medical assistance.” That means even if you weren’t using drugs, you don’t have to be afraid that the person for whom you seek help will be arrested for their drug use.
What kinds of offenses aren’t covered by the law?
If police discover evidence of any crime other than personal drug use, the law doesn’t grant any immunity. This includes more serious drug crimes like trafficking as well as non-drug-related offenses. If someone is charged with an offense not covered under the law, however, it can’t hurt to make the case that this evidence was discovered only because they sought help.
Certainly, police can make mistakes in the frantic activity of an overdose scene. If you or a loved one has been wrongly arrested and charged and a “Good Samaritan” act should be used as a mitigating factor in charges for the type of offense you’ve allegedly committed, having sound legal guidance is crucial.