According to the CDC, in 2019, over 62,000 people died from a drug overdose. While this number has reduced over time, there is a concern among people using drugs that when they overdose, they may also get arrested for possession because of it.
This may be a reason why many people are dying from overdoses instead of getting medical help. Before 2013, people would face criminal charges for drug possession or other drug-related offenses after treatment for an overdose. As a result, many people refrained from taking their friends to hospitals for fear of getting arrested with them.
However, California passed what is known as the “Good Samaritan” law in 2013, under the Health and Safety Code. This states that it is not a crime to possess a controlled substance for personal use or drug paraphernalia when seeking medical assistance for a drug overdose. This also applies to anyone seeking medical assistance for another person who is experiencing an overdose.
The law may not always protect you
There are a few exceptions to this law. You may be arrested and charged with a crime if:
- The amount of drugs you possess is clearly beyond what is considered “personal use.”
- The drug overdose also involved a dangerous or deadly activity, such as a car accident involving injuries.
- You are on parole or probation.
- You interfere or obstruct the work of medical professionals or law enforcement.
California recognizes the dangers of drug overdoses and this law works to break down one barrier to encourage people to seek help if they or a friend need it. In any case, it is important to know your rights and discuss your situation with a lawyer if you face criminal charges after an overdose or helping a friend get emergency medical attention after overdosing.