The epidemic of drug overdose fatalities in the U.S. has led lawmakers across the country to determine that saving a life is more important than arresting someone for a relatively minor drug-related offense. That’s why most states, including Michigan, have Good Samaritan laws in place to provide immunity from arrest for people who seek emergency help for someone (including themselves) who’s suffering an overdose.
Some of these laws are named for people who died of an overdose because those who were with them fled the scene without calling 911 out of fear of being arrested for their own drug possession.
When does Michigan law grant immunity?
The law applies to anyone who seeks or requires medical help for a drug overdose or “in good faith attempts to procure medical assistance for another individual.” It states that they won’t be prosecuted if they are found to have an “amount sufficient only for personal use” and the evidence “is obtained as a result of the individual’s seeking or being presented for medical assistance.”
Even if it turns out the person wasn’t overdosing, the law errs on the side of caution. It protects anyone who seeks help when someone is showing signs “that a layperson would reasonably believe to be a drug overdose that requires medical assistance.”
When the law doesn’t apply
The law doesn’t protect people from being prosecuted for more serious charges like drug trafficking. However, if two friends are together using drugs and one of them appears to suffer an overdose, the other should be able to call 911 without fear that they’ll be arrested for having a small amount of drugs in their possession.
It should be noted that the Good Samaritan law “does not prevent the investigation, arrest, charging, or prosecution of an individual for any other violation of the laws of this state, or be grounds for suppression of evidence in the prosecution of any other criminal charges.” If the police show up and find a room full of stolen flat screen TVs, you can’t expect this law to help you with that.
Overdose scenes can be chaotic, so it’s not impossible for someone to be arrested when they should be granted immunity under this law. If you have been charged with a drug-related crime after seeking help for someone suffering or appearing to suffer an overdose, experienced legal guidance can help you protect your rights.