Too often, people die from drug overdoses because those who are using drugs with them fear that if they call 911 or seek other emergency help, they’ll be arrested. Often, the victims are young people.
That’s why a number of states have passed “Good Samaritan” or immunity laws. These laws protect those who try to get help for someone whom they believe is suffering an overdose.
Understanding the limitations of the law
Last September, Texas enacted the Jessica Sosa Act, which protects people from being charged with a drug-related crime if:
- They are the first person to call 911 for help for an overdose.
- They stay at the scene until help arrives.
- They cooperate with emergency, medical and law enforcement personnel.
There are some caveats. For example, it doesn’t apply if someone reports an overdose while police are making an arrest or executing a search warrant.
The immunity doesn’t apply to other crimes that a person might be committing at the scene or elsewhere. Further, people who have a conviction for a serious crime on their record don’t qualify. Neither do those who have made a similar call for help in the past 18 months.
The goal is to reduce the number of fatal overdoses
These laws are intended simply to free people from the fear of facing arrest for having a relatively small amount of illegal drugs so that they won’t leave friends and acquaintances or even strangers to die from overdoses. Fatal overdoses have risen in Texas by nearly 50% in the past two years. It’s been estimated that these immunity laws can lessen fatal overdoses by 15%.
If you or a loved one has been arrested on a drug-related charge when you believe this law should apply, it’s crucial that you seek legal guidance. The law is still new, and law enforcement officers may still make mistakes around it. It’s important to protect your legal rights.