As fatal drug overdoses overwhelmed our country in recent years, state lawmakers looked for ways to minimize unnecessary deaths. One of these was to provide some immunity for those who called 911 or otherwise sought emergency help for someone suffering an overdose.
New Jersey has one of these “Good Samaritan” laws. The law applies to the person who in “good faith” seeks medical assistance as well as the person who is suffering the apparent overdose.
The law protects these individuals from being arrested, charged or prosecuted for:
- Being under the influence of drugs
- Possessing drugs
- Obtaining or attempting to obtain drugs
- Using or possessing drug paraphernalia
They also are protected from having their probation or parole revoked.
These protections are only valid if the evidence of these illegal activities is obtained because law enforcement responded to this call for help. If the police show up with emergency medical personnel at the scene of an overdose, the law will typically protect the person who called 911 and the person suffering an overdose from arrest for any illegal drugs or paraphernalia they find at the scene and for being under the influence of these drugs.
When doesn’t the law apply?
Note that the law doesn’t protect people from being arrested or charged with other crimes for which police might find evidence. For example, if they see stolen goods sitting around or a counterfeit credit card operation, they can take action as they normally would.
The purpose of the law is to try to prevent people from fleeing the scene of an overdose and leaving someone to potentially die or to be afraid to call for help for themselves because they fear arrest. If first responders can get to someone within minutes, the chances of them surviving an overdose are improved.
Certainly, an overdose scene can be chaotic. If you’ve been arrested on drug-related charges when you believe you qualify for protection under New Jersey law, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and effectively present your case.