As the crisis of fatal drug overdoses in this country continues, more states have enacted some form of “Good Samaritan” law that provides immunity from arrest and prosecution to those who seek emergency help for themselves or someone else.
Every state’s law is somewhat different. However, most all provide some immunity for relatively small amounts of drugs – enough for personal use – found at the scene of an overdose if they belong to the person who sought help or the person who is overdosing. The idea is to encourage those who witness or experience an overdose to seek potentially lifesaving help without worrying about being arrested.
What does North Dakota law say?
North Dakota law states that a person will be immune from prosecution for their own possession and use of illegal drugs or for “the sharing of controlled substances among those present.” To qualify for immunity, they must:
- “In good faith” seek medical help for someone they reasonably believe to be experiencing an overdose
- Remain at the scene until help arrives
- Cooperate with first responders
The person suffering the overdose also receives immunity from being charged with a drug-related crime discovered because of the call for help.
When doesn’t the law apply?
That means that if the police show up to a scene on their own and proceed to conduct a search or arrest, you cannot expect to receive this immunity if you then point out to them that someone there seems to be overdosing. The law also doesn’t apply to other crimes that law enforcement may discover, such as stolen goods, or if someone has committed a violent crime.
Certainly, the scene of an overdose can be chaotic. It’s possible that someone could be arrested even though they qualify for immunity under the law. It’s also possible for someone to be arrested for another crime, but the fact that they likely saved another person’s life by seeking help could be considered when determining their charges and consequences.
That’s why if you’ve been arrested at the scene of an overdose, it’s important to understand the law. Having experienced legal guidance can help you present your case effectively and protect your rights.