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Understanding Pennsylvania’s Overdose Immunity Law

Pennsylvania, like the rest of the country, has seen drug overdoses reach epidemic levels. That’s why our state, like most others, has enacted a “Good Samaritan” law that is designed to encourage those who are with someone who suffers an overdose to seek emergency help without fear that it will lead to their arrest. The law can also protect those who suffer overdoses from legal consequences.

It’s important to know what kind of drug-related offenses fall under the law and what is required for someone to qualify for immunity. Let’s take a brief look.

Who may qualify for immunity?

The law provides immunity for offenses associated with the possession of a small amount of illegal drugs as well as the possession of drug paraphernalia. If these actions are considered violations of their terms of probation or parole, they can also receive immunity for that.

For a person to qualify for that immunity, they must have reported what they reasonably believed to be an overdose to 911, a law enforcement officer, a campus security officer, or an emergency services provider. Further, they need to:

  • Report the overdose “in good faith” (and not, for example, because you’re in the process of being arrested).
  • Provide their correct name and location (if calling for help).
  • Remain at the scene until help arrives.

This applies only if the evidence of a person’s offense was discovered solely because they sought help. As noted, the law also protects the person who’s suffering an overdose “if a person who transported or reported and remained with them may not be charged and is entitled to immunity under this section.”

What isn’t covered under the law?

It’s important to note that this law doesn’t provide immunity for more serious drug offenses like delivery or distribution or non-drug-related offenses. It also doesn’t provide immunity for offenses that are discovered in other ways. Basically, it’s intended to prevent people who may be using drugs with someone who suffers an overdose from fleeing the scene and potentially leaving them to die.

The law doesn’t always work as intended. In the chaos of a drug overdose scene, it’s possible for people to be arrested who shouldn’t be. In fact, the law prohibits people from suing for wrongful arrest in these situations. If you believe you were wrongfully charged, however, it’s wise to seek legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights.

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