It’s happening increasingly often. People are gathered in a home, dorm room or other location using drugs when one of them appears to suffer an overdose. While many people will get help for them regardless of possible criminal consequences, others panic and leave the scene – and potentially leave someone to die. In too many cases, people who are alone when they overdose won’t call 911 because they’re afraid of being arrested.
To try to minimize those situations that can lead to unnecessary deaths, states across the country have implemented laws that provide immunity from prosecution for the personal use of drugs for those who seek emergency medical assistance for an overdose victim. Generally, they provide the same immunity for the person suffering an apparent overdose as well.
Some specifics about Georgia’s law
Georgia’s 911 medical amnesty law provides immunity for possession of a small amount of illegal drugs as well as underage possession of alcohol. It also provides immunity if someone is violating a condition of their probation, parole, protective or restraining order or pretrial release. This immunity applies both to the person who calls for or otherwise gets emergency help and the person in medical distress.
The law does require the person who seeks help to stay at the scene and fully cooperate with emergency medical technicians (EMTs), law enforcement and other first responders. The immunity applies only to applicable drug-related offenses that are discovered only as a result of the call for help.
If other criminal offenses are discovered, however (such as stolen goods, illegal weapons or a drug manufacturing operation), this law doesn’t apply. It generally can’t hurt a person’s case, however, if law enforcement only learned of their alleged criminal activity because they sought medical help for someone.
If you believe you were wrongfully arrested and charged with an offense or violation covered by the law or if you believe your actions should be a mitigating factor if you were charged with another crime, it’s important to have legal guidance to protect your rights and present your case.