Fatal drug overdoses are a serious problem throughout the country, and Florida is certainly no exception. Many fatalities can be prevented if someone who is with the victim calls 911. Unfortunately, bystanders often fear that by calling first responders, they’ll draw attention to their own drug use and be arrested. For that reason, some people won’t even call for help for themselves if they’re suffering an overdose.
That’s why most states – including Florida – have enacted “Good Samaritan” laws that provide some legal immunity from drug-related charges for those who seek help. Each state’s laws differ somewhat. Let’s take a look at Florida’s laws:
When does – and doesn’t – Florida’s law apply?
Florida’s Good Samaritan law protects anyone “acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing, or believed to be experiencing, an alcohol-related or a drug-related overdose” from facing criminal penalties for most drug-related offenses “if the evidence for such offense was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.” Further, they also can’t face penalties for violating the terms of their probation or parole by using drugs or alcohol if violations were only discovered because they called for help.
This law does not provide immunity for other alleged offenses police may discover at the scene (for example, stolen goods or acts of violence). Further, if a person is discovered with illegal drugs at another time and place apart from where they called for help, the law doesn’t apply to any alleged offenses they may have committed. As the law states, it “may not be grounds for suppression of evidence in other criminal prosecutions.”
Since overdose scenes can be chaotic, it’s not impossible that someone could find themselves under arrest even though the law protects them. If you or a loved one is facing drug-related charges after calling for help for an overdose, it’s important to seek legal guidance to make sure that your rights are protected.