New York is one of only a few states and cities that use a Good Samaritan law, often simply called “Good Sam.” This law provides specific protections to individuals who experience an overdose of an illegal substance as well as those who witness someone overdosing.
The purpose of the law is to offer those in need of immediate medical attention the freedom to contact police or medical services by calling 911 without fear of getting arrested in the aftermath.
If you or someone you know overdoses on heroin or any number of other illegal drugs, it is important to know that you have this legal protection in the state of New York. This also allows you to better defend yourself against unfair and potentially disastrous criminal charges.
Who receives protection under the Good Sam law?
Any individual, regardless of his or her age or other factors, receives blanket protections against arrest when they report an overdose under the Good Sam law. This means that a minor who may or may not use illegal drugs, and who might otherwise receive a harsh criminal sentencing, may call 911 to report either someone else’s overdose, or even their own.
At least, this is the intended protection of the law. It is possible for a person to intend to use Good Sam protections but still receive criminal charges, depending on the circumstances. In this instance, these charges may be a violation of your rights, and you should fight against them.
It is also important to understand that the Good Sam law does not protect you from all criminal charges in the event of reporting an overdose. Generally only those that pertain to drug use, like possession and intoxication charges, will be covered by the statutory protections. If, for instance, you reported an overdose and the police who come to the scene see that you have a collection of unregistered weapons, or see evidence that suggests you are holding someone hostage against their will, you may not have grounds to claim innocence under the Good Sam law.
Should you report an overdose?
The entire intent of the law is to prevent the needless deaths of individuals from untreated overdoses. If you see someone overdosing, or if you experience an overdose yourself, it is better to preserve life and sort out the legal matters afterward. In most cases, the Good Sam protections cover your legal liability.
If you have concerns about the outcome of reporting an overdose, or if you received criminal charges after calling in an overdose under the Good Sam Law, an experienced criminal defense attorney can examine your circumstances closely and help you build a strong defense that protects your rights under the law.