The opioid and heroin overdose crisis continues to destroy lives in central Pennsylvania and across the commonwealth. Some local law enforcement agencies are attempting to take steps to help people struggling with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription painkillers.
However, many people remain in the shadows, fearful of a stay in jail or prison, where they will receive little help for their addictions. This can lead to fatal overdoses when people decline to call 911 or seek some form of help.
For those who are struggling with drug addiction, they may not be aware that there is a law on the books here in Pennsylvania designed to make it easier for people to seek help for an overdose without the threat of arrest.
Who the law protects
Known as a “Good Samaritan” law, this law allows people who are overdosing or those who are with someone who is overdosing to seek help free from arrest for charges like drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia, provided they meet certain conditions:
- The police must become aware of the overdose strictly through your reaching out to them for help.
- If you call 911, you must provide first responders with your name and location, and you must stay with your friend until help arrives and cooperate.
- If you are overdosing, you will also be immune from arrest if the person seeking help on your behalf is immune.
Much more serious charges, such as drug trafficking or distribution or drug-induced homicide, are not covered by the law. However, that does not mean that you should not seek help for yourself or a friend if you require immediate assistance for an overdose. Since more police and first responders carry the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone with them, fast action may just save a life.
If police misinterpret the Good Samaritan law and arrest you, remember that you still have rights, and you will be able to defend yourself with the help of an attorney.