Strategic Defense
From A Former Prosecutor

Understanding California’s Good Samaritan overdose immunity law

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2023 | Drug Charges

There’s no doubt that the epidemic of fatal drug overdoses is nowhere near fading. Between opioids, designer drugs and drugs mixed with toxic substances, any kind of illegal drug use can be dangerous.

In an effort to get emergency medical help to people overdosing as soon as possible, many states, including California, have laws that provide some immunity from drug charges to people who call 911 or otherwise seek medical aid for a person who appears to be suffering an overdose. California’s law also provides immunity to the person who’s overdosing.

What is and isn’t covered under California’s law?

California law states in part that “it shall not be a crime for a person to be under the influence of, or to possess for personal use, a controlled substance, controlled substance analog, or drug paraphernalia, if that person, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for another person experiencing a drug-related overdose….” However, the law requires that “that person does not obstruct medical or law enforcement personnel.”

As noted, the law also applies to “a person who experiences a drug-related overdose and who is in need of medical assistance…if the person or one or more other persons at the scene of the overdose, in good faith, seek medical assistance for the person experiencing the overdose.”

Essentially, the law provides immunity from arrest and prosecution for offenses related to a person possessing or using illegal drugs. It doesn’t apply to offenses involving the sale or trafficking or drugs, driving under the influence or non-drug-related offenses that might be discovered at the scene of the overdose.

Things can certainly be chaotic and confusing for everyone – including law enforcement – at the scene of an overdose. Maybe you were arrested for an offense covered under the law. Maybe you were arrested for something not covered under the law. If you did the right thing and potentially saved a life, that can be used as a mitigating factor in charging and sentencing for any other offense for which you’re facing charges. Either way, having legal guidance can help protect your rights.