Pennsylvania Drug Overdose Immunity Law
As of December 1, 2014, the “Good Samaritan” law for drug overdoses became effective. The law, officially called the Drug Overdose Response Immunity law and set forth at 35 P.S. § 780-113.7, is generally intended to encourage people to call for medical assistance for a person suffering from a drug overdose. The law is intended to provide “immunity,” meaning freedom from criminal prosecution, for both the caller or seeker of help AND the person that needs the medical assistance.
Requirements for Immunity from Prosecution
The general intent behind the overdose immunity law is to encourage people to seek medical assistance for a person experiencing an overdose without fear of criminal prosecution in the future. However, in order to be protected from prosecution, the overdose immunity law does have conditions or requirements that must be followed in order to fall under its protections. Some district attorneys require strict adherence to the requirements and will try to prosecute drug possession charges when possible Generally speaking, immunity applies if:
1. the police only became aware of the offense because someone transported the overdosing person to a law enforcement agency, campus security office, or healthcare facility;
2. a person contacted law enforcement, 911, campus security, or emergency services personnel based upon a reasonable belief that someone needed immediate medical attention to prevent death or serious bodily injury due to a drug overdose; the person provided his name and location, and the person cooperated with emergency responders; and the person remained with the overdosing person until emergency personnel arrived.
No Immunity from Felony Drug Charges
It must be noted that the immunity law does not prevent ALL criminal charges from being filed or prosecuted. The immunity law generally protects the caller and overdosing person from prosecution for misdemeanor drug or related paraphernalia charges. The law does not protect a person from felony drug charges, such as Drug Delivery or Possession With Intent to Deliver, or Drug Delivery Resulting in Death. The immunity also prevents a person from being prosecuted for a violation of probation or parole.
In order to trigger the protections of the immunity law, a person must be experiencing a “drug overdose event.” The phrase “drug overdose event” includes, but is not limited to “severe physical illness, coma, mania, hysteria or death, which is the result of consumption or use of one or more controlled substances causing an adverse reaction.”