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Good Samaritan Fatal Overdose Prevention Law

Good Samaritan Fatal Overdose Prevention Law

A young woman, let’s call her Kelly (made up name, this example is all fictional), is at home with a friend. They have had a couple of beers and then decide to take a few pain pills. Unbeknownst to Kelly the pills have been laced with fentanyl. 30 minutes later Kelly becomes unconscious, and is struggling to breath and is cold to the touch.   

Her friend, let’s call him Mark (also made up), begins to panic. He doesn’t know what to do, but one thing is sure, he doesn’t want to get himself in trouble. He begins debating in his own mind what to do. Should he call 911 for help? Of should he just leave and avoid getting in trouble?

This is all the more serious because Kelly’s life is depending on getting help, and getting it quickly. If Mark just leaves, or just delays in calling for help, she is likely going to die.

Fortunately, Mark has heard about South Carolina’s overdose law, and knows he can call for help. He pulls out his phone and calls “911”. He explains to the operator exactly what has happened, gives the address, and his real name. He then opens the front door and then waits with Kelly for help to arrive.

When EMT’s arrive, they are accompanied a few minutes later by the police. Even though the pills are illegal, and there is marijuana and rolling papers in plane site, neither Kelly or Mark is charged with any crime. Kelly ends up being taken to the hospital and gets the help she needs for the overdose.

So what law protected Mark from getting charged?

Scenarios like what happened to Kelly and Mark happen daily all over the county. Because of this a number of states, including South Carolina, have passed special laws to protect people from being criminally charged with many common drug or alcohol offenses if they call for help. In order to qualify you must believe that you are the first one to call, you must identify yourself, remain on the scene until help arrives, and cooperate with police and the EMT’s.

When you do so you are protected from being prosecuted for many common criminal charges, including drug possession and drug paraphernalia. The point of this law is to help make sure that people call for help when there is an overdose situation, rather than worry about criminal charges.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like Mark did in this story, please immediately call 911.

If you’ve been charged with any drug related offenses, including after a situation involving a drug overdose, it’s important that you understand whether or not you are covered under this law. If so, it can result in the total dismissal of your charge. We’re available to discuss your situation with you and let you know if you are likely to be covered under this law. Call us at (803) 359-3301.


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