If you’re with someone who appears to be suffering a medical emergency, your first instinct is to call 911. Unfortunately, if doing that could mean risking getting arrested for possessing illegal drugs, too many people don’t call 911 and get out of there. That’s how many drug overdoses become fatal.
It’s for this reason that most states, including Florida, now have some type of Good Samaritan drug overdose immunity law on the books. These laws protect those who call for emergency help for someone who appears to be suffering an overdose. Many protect the overdose victim as well (whether they called 911 or someone called for them). Each state’s law is different. Let’s look at Florida’s.
Florida’s “Drug Abuse Prevention and Control” law
Florida law provides immunity for anyone “acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance” for an individual experiencing, or believed to be experiencing, an alcohol-related or a drug-related overdose” from arrest and prosecution for most drug and alcohol-related offenses. It also protects the person experiencing the overdose if someone else seeks help for them or if they seek help for themselves.
Immunity only applies, however, “if the evidence for such offense was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.” This immunity also applies to any violations of a person’s terms of parole or probation.
The law doesn’t always provide immunity
It’s important to note that this immunity is only for drug-related and alcohol-related offenses (for example, providing alcohol to a minor). If evidence of another offense is found at the scene, such as allegedly stolen items or unlicensed weapons, the law “may not be grounds for suppression of evidence in other criminal prosecutions.”
If you or your child is facing drug-related charges for which you believe this law immunizes them, it’s crucial to make that known. Even if the law doesn’t cover the alleged offense, the circumstances around the arrest can always be taken into consideration. Getting help for someone to save their life is never the wrong thing to do. Whatever the situation, having experienced legal guidance can always help.