Good Samaritan Law and Pennsylvania Underage Drinking Charges

Many people wonder if they can call 911 or seek medical treatment for a person suffering from an alcohol overdose without being charged with Underage Drinking. The good news is that the person calling and seeking medical treatment may be protected and be safe from prosecution, but, regrettably, the person suffering from the overdose can be charged. Most people who drink underage do not do so alone but instead do it with friends. When one friend has a bit too much to drink and needspublic drunkennessmedical attention, the responsible friend or friends should contact 911 or medical personnel to get help for the over-intoxicated friend. In this scenario, Pennsylvania law does sometimes provide immunity from prosecution to the person contacting the appropriate authorities. The law wants to encourage underage drinkers to get medical help from a friend without fearing that the caller will get him or herself into trouble. This is generally called the "Good Samaritan" law and is found in 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6308(f).

Requirements for Good Samaritan Immunity

In order to fall under the protections of the Good Samaritan law, the underage drinker that seeks help must prove all of the following:

  1. Prove that law enforcement or police only became aware of the underage drinking violation because the person contacted 911, campus safety, or some other police or emergency services personnel;
  2. The caller reasonably believed that he was the first person to seek medical assistance for a person to prevent death or serious injury;
  3. The caller provided his own name to the 911 operator, police, or emergency personnel;
  4. The caller remained with the person needing medical assistance until emergency responders arrived.

Limitations to Good Samaritan Law

Many people are confused by the Good Samaritan law and believe that it protects both the person calling the police AND the person that needs medical assistance. Regretfully, the law is not that protective and instead only provides immunity from prosecution to the caller. The underage drinker that requires medical assistance will often face a criminal charge of Underage Drinking and possibly a citation for Public Drunkenness.

It must also be noted that the caller is only protected from criminal prosecution for a underage drinking sentencecharge of Underage Drinking and NOT all other offenses. For example, if the caller hosted the underage drinking party at which the person became drunk, the caller could still be facing charges of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor. Or, if the police arrive and see marijuana or paraphernalia in plain view, the person could be charged with misdemeanor offenses of Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. While the caller may not be charged with a summary offense of Underage Drinking, the immunity protection does not insulate the caller from all criminal charges.

Charges May Be Filed

In many situations in which the applicability of the Good Samaritan exception applies, the police will not file an Underage Drinking charge under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6308. However, there are situations in which such a charge is filed, and the person must present evidence to a judge to meet the requirements above. State College defense attorney Jason S. Dunkle has successfully argued the Good Samaritan exception protection and obtained a not guilty verdict or a dismissal of the charges.