A good samaritan, as defined in legal terms by US Legal, is “someone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured person on a voluntary basis.” The Good Samaritan Law, which exists nationally but under different terms by state, grants these good Samaritans immunity. (Click here to check the good samaritan laws of your state.)
Three conditions must be met for immunity to be granted. First, the good samaritan must not have been reckless in their care. Second, the care must have been given at the scene of the incident. Last, there must have been no other motive than helping the victim; if and when a good samaritan was to ask for compensation, the immunity would no longer apply.
The majority of the time, a good samaritan arises at the scene of a bodily injury, such as an automobile accident or a violent crime. The law exists to protect those who may assist the injured person in the event unintentional damage is done therein. Basically, if you help someone who got hurt and somehow make it worse, chances are you won’t incur criminal charges.
Michigan Steps it Up
Thirty-two US states have what is known as the 911 Good Samaritan Law. This law protects good samaritans in the same manner as mentioned, but applies to people of all ages who seek help for themselves or someone else in the event of an overdose from alcohol or a minor drug.
In May of this year, two bills were passed by the Michigan House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee regarding the state’s 911 Good Samaritan Laws. Combined, these bills will provide, according to Addiction and Recovery News, “immunity from criminal charges for people all ages who are seeking emergency medical assistance for themselves or friends as a result of a drug overdose from any illicit drug.”
This is a game-changer, and will hopefully be followed by other states. Overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Who knows how many could have been prevented if a responder had no fear of the law in that moment? Michigan is on the fast track to finding out.
House Bill 5649, put forth by Rep. Pscholka, provides immunity to those in this circumstance from possession of drugs. House Bill 5650, put forth by Rep. Singh, provides immunity to those in this circumstance from use of drugs. Neither bill has been passed by the Senate yet, but bear in mind things take time in government and it’s only been three months.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line: do not be afraid to call 911 in the event of an overdose. If your state criminally charges good samaritans in use or possession of illicit drugs, call anonymously. You could save a life. Read here for elaborate details on how you can help someone after an overdose.