When someone suffers a drug overdose, emergency treatment can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, those who are with a person who appears to be overdosing are often afraid to call for help because they’re in possession of illegal drugs and don’t want to be arrested. Sometimes, overdose victims are afraid to seek help for themselves for the same reason.
That’s why most states, including Virginia, have enacted some type of “Good Samaritan” immunity law that protects those who get emergency help for an overdose from prosecution. Every state’s law is different. Let’s look at the specifics of Virginia’s law.
How do you qualify for immunity?
The law grants immunity from charges for “unlawful purchase, possession, or consumption” of illegal drugs as well as drug paraphernalia. To qualify for immunity under this law, a person must do the following:
- Seek help “in good faith”for someone “experiencing an overdose”
- Remain at the scene or wherever the overdose victim was transported until law enforcement officers arrive
- Provide identification to law enforcement
The person suffering an overdose can also qualify for immunity if someone else called to get help for them.
How is “experiencing an overdose” defined?
Most people can’t know for certain whether someone is “experiencing an overdose.” What if it turns out the person was suffering a panic attack or a seizure? Fortunately, an appeals court ruling in a Virgina case clarified that phrase in the law. The court determined that if someone calls for help because they have a reasonable belief that someone (including themselves) is “experiencing an overdose,” they have the same right to immunity from prosecution as if it had been an overdose.
Things can be chaotic at the scene of an overdose or in an emergency room. If you believe you were wrongly arrested and charged with a drug-related offense for which you qualify for immunity, it’s important to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.