Over the last several years, the number of deaths associated with drug overdoses has skyrocketed. In 2015, more than 52,400 individuals died as the result of a drug overdose. Last year, estimates place the number of deaths at around 59,000. These statistics indicate that overdose deaths now claim more lives each year than auto accidents and shootings.
Of course, public service campaigns and educational outreach programs have attempted to convince individuals to stay away from addictive drugs, but, unfortunately, they do not seem to be working all that well. States around the country have noticed a marked resurgence of heroin, along with fentanyl—a synthetic opioid that is often wildly unpredictable and dangerous. In light of the growing problem, many states, including Illinois have enacted laws that offer a level of immunity to a person who seeks help during a possible overdose situation.
Consider a scenario in which you and some friends are having a small party at your house. Without your knowledge, one of your friends brought heroin with him, and during the course of the party, he goes into the bathroom. A few minutes later, you hear a crash, so you open the bathroom door to find your friend on the floor, and he appears to have overdosed. What should you do? If you call an ambulance, will the police come and decide that you were responsible for the drugs because it was your house? Will you be arrested? And, what about your friend? Even if he gets medical help, will he go to jail?
Making Help Accessible
In 2012, Illinois lawmakers decided that the fear of criminal penalties should not dissuade individuals from seeking help in an emergency situation. They passed a law that offers limited immunity for an overdose victim and the person who seeks medical attention on an overdose victim’s behalf. Specifically, the measure—sometimes referred to a “Good Samaritan” law—provides that neither a “person who is experiencing an overdose” or a “person who, in good faith, seeks or obtains emergency medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose” will be charged with a felony for drug possession as the result of the call for help. The police may also not use the information provided by the call for help as probable cause for obtaining a warrant or conducting a search.
It is important to realize that the law does not offer complete immunity from prosecution in every situation. Possession charges may still be possible depending on the amount and type of drug present at the scene. For example, immunity is only guaranteed for up to three grams of heroin or cocaine or six grams of LSD or PCP. Immunity may also not be extended if the police already had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to conduct a search or to execute an arrest.
Seek Legal Guidance
If you have been arrested and are facing drug possession charges as the result of helping someone suffering from an overdose, contact an experienced Joliet drug crimes defense attorney . At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we will work hard to protect your rights and to provide the responsible -representation you deserve. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation today.