There’s no question that there’s a crisis of fatal drug overdoses throughout the country. Louisiana is certainly no exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our state has the third highest overdose death rate in the country.
Often, these deaths could have been prevented if those who were with a person suffering an overdose got help for them rather than flee the scene out of fear that they’ll be arrested for their own drug use. That’s why Louisiana, like most states, has enacted a law that provides immunity from drug possession and use charges for those “good Samaritans.”
Who is protected under Louisiana law?
According to the law, “A person acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose may not be charged, prosecuted, or penalized for possession or use of a controlled dangerous substance…or of possession of drug paraphernalia…if the evidence for such offenses was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.”
The same protection applies to the person who is experiencing the overdose, whether they call for help for themselves or someone else gets help for them. The law further protects those who seek or require medical assistance for an overdose from “[s]anctions for a violation of a condition of pretrial release, condition of probation, or condition of parole” or forfeiture of their property. Police can, however, still seize “contraband,” such as illegal drugs, found at the scene.
What if evidence of other offenses is found?
The law doesn’t protect people from prosecution for more serious drug-related offenses (like trafficking) or non-drug-related offenses if evidence of these offenses is discovered when police arrive on the scene. However, the law states, “The act of providing or seeking first aid or other medical assistance for someone who is experiencing a drug overdose may be used as a mitigating factor in a criminal prosecution….”
That means if you call 911 to report that a friend is suffering an overdose and police find stolen goods or illegal weapons at the scene, the fact that they only found them because you sought help for someone may be used to seek a lesser charge or sentence.
Overdose scenes can be chaotic. If you believe you were wrongfully arrested and charged for drug possession or use or if you’re facing charges for another offense, it’s crucial to get legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights and present your case.