Can you face charges if you call 911 when someone overdoses?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Drug-related offenses are generally treated very seriously in this country. However, in recent decades, state lawmakers (including those in Kentucky) have determined that overdose fatalities are only going to continue to rise if people are afraid to call 911 or otherwise get emergency help for an overdose.

That’s why there are “Good Samaritan” drug immunity laws that protect people from being charged with a crime for their own personal use of illegal drugs if it’s discovered only because they got help for an overdose victim. The problem is that not enough people are aware of these laws and, as a result, too many flee the scene of a drug overdose or don’t even call for help for themselves if they’re overdosing.

Who qualifies for immunity under Kentucky’s law?

Kentucky state law states that people are immune from “prosecution for possession of controlled substance or drug paraphernalia” if they seek medical assistance in “good faith” for someone (including themselves) they reasonably believe is overdosing.  That immunity extends to the victim if someone else calls to get help for them.

“Good faith” means someone is reporting an overdose solely for the purpose of getting emergency help – not to get out of being arrested. For example, the law doesn’t apply to someone who reports an overdose “during the course of the execution of an arrest warrant, or search warrant, or a lawful search.” The person who calls for help must also remain at the scene.

The law also doesn’t apply to more serious drug-related crimes like trafficking, or to non-drug-related offenses if evidence of them is discovered when police arrive at the scene. However, it can never hurt someone’s case if their alleged offense was discovered only because they were trying to save someone’s life.

Note that the law specifically protects people from being prosecuted. There are no guarantees that someone may not be wrongly arrested or even charged. Police can’t always correctly determine what’s going on when they arrive at an overdose scene. If you believe you have been wrongfully arrested or charged – or if you believe your actions should lessen the consequences you may be facing for other alleged offenses, it’s crucial to get experienced legal guidance as soon as possible.