Like most states, Ohio has a “Good Samaritan” law that provides people with immunity from arrest and prosecution for minor drug offenses if evidence of those offenses was discovered by police only because they got emergency medical assistance for someone suffering a drug overdose – including themselves.
States began enacting these laws to try to curb the epidemic of fatal drug overdoses sweeping the nation. It’s hoped that by getting some immunity for their personal drug use, people will be less likely to leave an overdose scene – or to get help for themselves. Many victims of fatal overdoses could have been saved if they’d gotten medical assistance.
Some provisions of the law
A key section of the law says that “a qualified individual shall not be arrested, charged, prosecuted, convicted, or penalized…for a minor drug possession offense…[if]….the evidence of the obtaining, possession, or use of the controlled substance or controlled substance analog, drug abuse instruments, or drug paraphernalia…was obtained as a result of the qualified individual seeking the medical assistance or experiencing an overdose and needing medical assistance.”
A ”qualified individual” is defined by the law as “a person who is acting in good faith who seeks or obtains medical assistance for another person who is experiencing a drug overdose, a person who experiences a drug overdose and who seeks medical assistance for that overdose, or a person who is the subject of another person seeking or obtaining medical assistance for that overdose.” This can include things like calling 911 or taking someone to a hospital or urgent care facility.
The law also protects these “qualified individuals” from being penalized for a violation of their parole, probation or other “community control sanction” if that violation involves minor drug offenses.
When doesn’t this law apply?
The law doesn’t protect people from prosecution for other criminal offenses if evidence of them is discovered because they sought help. It also doesn’t apply to more serious drug offenses, like trafficking.
Police don’t always get things right – particularly during the chaos of a drug overdose scene. If you’ve been charged with a minor drug offense for which you believe you should have immunity under this law, it’s smart to get legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights.