If you call for emergency help for someone who appears to be suffering a drug overdose or if you call for help for yourself, you shouldn’t have to worry about facing drug charges as a result. That’s the reasoning behind laws in states across the country that offer some immunity from arrest and prosecution in these cases.
These state “Good Samaritan” or “drug immunity” laws vary in their specifics. Let’s take a look at South Dakota’s statutes.
Immunity for the person who seeks help
One of the laws provides immunity for “any misdemeanor or felony offense of possession, inhalation, ingestion, or otherwise taking into the body any controlled drug or substance” for anyone who seeks help from emergency medical services (EMS) or law enforcement for someone who is suffering an overdose.
Most people aren’t medical professionals. However, if a person who has been consuming drugs goes into some kind of serious distress, it’s only reasonable to assume that they’re overdosing. That why the law refers to an “immediate health or safety concern.”
To qualify for this immunity, the person must remain at the scene and cooperate with all responding medical and law enforcement personnel. That generally means providing information (to the best of your ability) like what drug(s) the person took, how much and when. Being able to provide complete and accurate information without fearing criminal consequences can save lives.
Further, the immunity applies only if any evidence of a criminal offense was obtained only because they called for help. For example, if the police show up with EMS workers at the scene of an overdose and find illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia, that can’t be used as evidence. The law doesn’t provide blanket immunity for any other alleged offenses police might discover on some other occasion.
Immunity for someone who seeks help for themselves
Another law provides the same immunity for someone who seeks emergency help for themselves for a drug-related overdose. Neither of these laws specifies that the person suffering the overdose receives immunity if someone else calls for help for them (as many state laws do). However, that should never stop someone from doing what’s necessary to save a life.
If you’re facing drug-related charges that you believe should be covered under these state immunity laws, it’s important to seek legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights.