With the many dangers of drug use so regularly emphasized, it is extremely concerning that illicit drug use continues to plague the country. Apart from being highly illegal, the use and abuse of substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines can have serious consequences on an individual’s health, lifestyle, and family relationships. In an effort to curb the most serious health impact, however, state laws throughout the United States, including Illinois, have been enacted to provide limited criminal immunity for those would seek emergency help for someone experiencing a drug overdose. Known as Good Samaritan Laws, such measures look to save lives by addressing the health dangers of a potentially deadly situation before legal concerns.
The use of heroin in Illinois has started capturing statewide attention, as there has been a significant increase in heroin-related activity and overdoses in recent years. In Will County, for example, there were 5 reported deaths attributed to heroin overdoses in 2000, a number which exploded by 2012 to 46. DuPage County similarly reported 42 heroin-overdose deaths in 2012, and numbers throughout the area are similar.
In that same year, however, the state legislature decided that it was time to take action in protecting the lives of Illinois residents. Passed in February of 2012, and taking effect in June, the law colloquially known as a Good Samaritan Law offered, for the first time, a level of protection for individuals acting to help a person who may overdosing on an illegal drug. Specifically, the measure states that a person is experiencing an overdose, or “who, in good faith, seeks or obtains emergency medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose” will not be prosecuted for felony possession of illegal drugs.
There are certain limits to the law’s reach however, as it specifically applies to a limited amount of an illicit substance that was found or acquired as a result of the call for help. For example, a person in need of help or the caller found with less than three ounces of heroin by the responding authorities will be immune from possession charges. If probable cause for arrest or the detaining of a person existed prior to the need to seek emergency assistance, the Good Samaritan Law does not interfere with law enforcement’s right or ability to pursue the case.
As with any criminal prosecution, the details of each case are unique. If you are facing drug possession charges as the result of calling emergency services for friend in need, a qualified lawyer can help you understand your options under the law. Contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney today for a free consultation. We will work to protect your rights throughout the process and minimize the impact to your future.