Victims of Drug Overdose May Soon Receive Immunity from Criminal Charges in North Carolina
A bill that is currently moving through the North Carolina legislature would broaden the state Good Samaritan law to protect drug users who are victims of overdoses from being arrested and charged. According to health professionals in Franklin and Vance Counties, a number of overdose victims are currently being arrested by law enforcement, which is ultimately preventing users from calling for help when someone is overdosing.
Current Law Versus New Changes
North Carolina’s current Good Samaritan Law, which passed in 2013, only explicitly protects those who call 911 to report an overdose from being charged with drug-related felonies or misdemeanors, but it is unclear as to whether it also protects the individual if they were the one using the drugs/overdosing. The new legislation would clarify that those who are victims of the overdose would receive the same legal immunity as those who call for help, and apparently has bipartisan support.
Should It Go Farther?
Still, some legislators would like to continue to broaden the bill to also provide immunity to anyone who is present and witnesses an individual who may need medical attention related to a drug overdose–regardless of whether they are the ones making the phone calls or not–due to a concern that others in the vicinity who are witnessing an overdose could otherwise discourage the caller from calling for help. Still others would also like to see the legislation expanded to include methamphetamines under Good Samaritan law protections.
Does It Matter If No One Is Aware of the Policy?
Even if the ideal law passes, much work still remains to be done in getting the word out about the Good Samaritan law. Not only have a majority of North Carolinians never heard of the existing law, but those who have heard of it usually do not fully understand the law enforcement ramifications and the extent of its protections. And unfortunately, this isn’t just limited to civilians: according to surveys, even many police officers have reportedly never heard of Good Samaritan Laws in their states. This can have a significant effect on wrongful arrests and criminal justice issues in states like North Carolina, where many likely see arrests and convictions unless they work with a criminal defense attorney who picks up on a police officer failing to abide by the Good Samaritan Law.
Contact Our North Carolina Drug Charge Defense Attorneys Today to Find Out More
At Dysart Willis, our North Carolina drug crimes lawyers have significant experience successfully defending individuals who have been accused of both state drug crimes and federal drug violations. We have handled a number of jury trials, and even received certifications as specialists in criminal law. Contact our office today to find out more.