If someone is using drugs with a friend or another person who appears to be overdosing, they may think twice before calling 911 for help. They may fear that they’ll be arrested on drug-related charges.
Sadly, those who are alone when they overdose may also fear calling 911 or otherwise seeking help because they don’t want to be arrested. These situations all too often become fatal.
As overdose deaths have increased in recent years, many states, including South Dakota, have added overdose immunity laws that protect people from facing drug-related charges in specified situations if they seek medical help for someone (including themselves) who is in danger of or already appears to be overdosing.
These laws have limitations
South Dakota has multiple laws that provide immunity under certain conditions if someone reports an overdose. For example, one law prohibits a person from being arrested or prosecuted for “reporting one’s own need for emergency medical assistance for drug-related overdose.” Immunity applies “only if the evidence for the charge or prosecution was obtained as a result of the drug-related overdose and the need for medical assistance.”
Another state law provides immunity for the person who reports the need for medical help for an overdose. To receive this immunity, evidence of drug use must be obtained only as a result of that reporting.
Further, the person who reports the overdose must stay on the scene and cooperate with both emergency and law enforcement professionals. Another law specifies that this immunity (whether it’s used to report someone else’s overdose or your own) can only be granted once.
Protect your rights and your future
Obviously, the first and only concern for anyone who is suffering or witnessing an overdose should be obtaining medical assistance. You can deal with any potential legal ramifications later. It’s important, however, to know the law and to ensure that your rights are protected if you are arrested.