As more toxic drugs like fentanyl make their way onto the streets and into the hands of unsuspecting drug users and addicts, the rate of fatal overdoses in this country has increased. It was already out of control, with opioids, heroin and other highly addictive drugs killing people of all ages.
One step that many states, including Maryland, have taken is to enact a “Good Samaritan” immunity law that protects people from arrest and prosecution for drug possession if they seek emergency help when someone is suffering an overdose and remain at the scene and cooperate with first responders.
Some details about Maryland law
Under Maryland law, people can receive immunity for possession or use of a controlled substance and/or drug paraphernalia. It also protects people from facing legal consequences for violating a probation, parole or pre-trial release condition. This assumes that the evidence of drug-related activity was found only because a person sought help for an overdose.
Immunity doesn’t apply to other serious criminal offenses. For example, if stolen goods or illegal weapons are found at the scene or if someone has been shot or stabbed to death, the law wouldn’t apply to those crimes.
The person suffering an overdose receives the same immunity as the person who sought help. That’s the case whether someone else got help for them or they sought help for themselves.
Some limitations of the law
It’s important to understand that this law requires that the help be sought “in good faith.” That means a person called 911, flagged down a police car or took someone to an emergency room because they believed they were overdosing. It doesn’t include pointing out that someone is overdosing as you’re being arrested.
It also applies solely to the person who sought help. If a group of people are at the scene when law enforcement arrives, they don’t all qualify for immunity.
If you’ve been arrested after calling for help because police found evidence of an offense that doesn’t qualify for immunity, doing the right thing can still work in your favor when prosecutors are considering charges. Regardless of the situation, if you were arrested after calling for help, having legal guidance can help you protect your rights and work to lessen the consequences.