Good Samaritan laws across the country are meant to keep those who try to save others in life-threatening situations safe from legal action. However, they don’t always work as they are intended – with devastating consequences for many people.
Recently, a group of parents – who had lost children to overdose and other substance-related accidents – got together and lobbied the North Carolina legislature to strengthen the Good Samaritan law in the state. Currently, the law does offer protections to those acting in good faith when they seek medical help for someone in trouble, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be prosecuted for related crimes.
Here’s what you need to know about North Carolina’s Good Samaritan law and what it currently offers to those who may seek to assist those in need.
The Current Good Samaritan Law
The Good Samaritan law active in North Carolina right now does several things. It allows those who are with someone who may be overdosing to call 911 for help, and it protects the victim as well as the caller from being prosecuted for:
- The possession of minute amounts of most drugs
- The possession of drug paraphernalia
- Violations of parole, probation, or post-release
- Underage consumption and possession of alcohol
The caller to 911 is required to give their name in order to qualify for these legal protections. The law also allows for the administration of Naloxone.
Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of opioids in the body to help reverse an overdose. It works on overdoses of drugs such as methadone, prescription pain medication like Oxycontin, and heroin. These drugs may stop a person from breathing. Naloxone restores respiratory function.
Under current North Carolina law, anyone who uses Naloxone as an intervention to overdosing is immune from both criminal and civil liability as long as the drug is administered in good faith. It also protects law enforcement officers who may administer it as well as pharmacists and other medical providers who prescribe it.
The Changes Proposed to the Current Law
The current Good Samaritan law is meant to reduce harm for those who act in good faith. After all, no one wants to walk away from someone who needs helps out of fear that they’ll be prosecuted for drug crimes.
However, the current law contains a loophole that allows police to collect evidence at the scene, which they may use down the line to charge the person who called 911 for crimes. This can include drug possession or even possession with intent to sell. It’s also possible and allowed for police to arrest someone who called 911 to help an overdose victim if they find enough evidence against them for other crimes.
A new bill in the North Carolina legislature would still allow prosecution against anyone who intends to distribute illegal drugs, but it does protect everyone at the scene from charges, arrest, and prosecution to help save lives – that is what many people are lobbying the legislature to do. They simply don’t want people to be so scared of consequences that they refuse to save the life of another.
The fact of the matter is that overdose continues to be a serious problem in North Carolina. With drugs such as fentanyl on the scene now, 2020 drug deaths shot up by 23 percent in the state.