If a person is using drugs with a friend who suffers what appears to be an overdose, should they still be arrested and charged with a drug-related crime even though police wouldn’t have found out about it if they hadn’t done the right thing and sought emergency help for a friend (or maybe even someone they didn’t know)? In most states, including Texas, lawmakers have determined that those “Good Samaritans” who call 911 should get immunity from drug-related offenses discovered in these situations.

Just two years ago, Texas enacted its own Good Samaritan overdose law. It’s not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, but the goal is to reduce fatal overdoses that occur all too often because people flee the scene rather than get help. In too many cases, people won’t even seek emergency help for their own overdose because they fear being arrested.

The law has some limitations

Texas’ law, known as the Jessica Sosa Act, protects people who seek emergency medical help for someone whom they believe is suffering an overdose if they meet some requirements. For example, they must be the first to seek help for an overdose. They must also stay at the scene and cooperate with first responders, including the police.

Every state’s Good Samaritan overdose law is somewhat different. Some have more restrictions and limitations than others. Texas’ law has been criticized for having too many limitations. For example, the law doesn’t protect people if they report an overdose if:

  • Police are already on the scene doing a search or making an arrest.
  • Police find evidence of an unrelated crime at the scene.
  • They have a felony conviction on their record
  • They’ve sought emergency help for another overdose within the past 18 months.

Of course, it’s always the right thing to seek help for someone in medical distress. Even if you don’t qualify for immunity under the law, your actions can and should be considered by authorities. If you are facing charges after seeking help for an overdose, it’s crucial to have legal guidance to protect your rights.