Good Samaritans Can Now Claim Immunity from Certain Drug Crimes
New Jersey recently passed a law that provides protection to those who violate drug laws while trying to save the life of overdose victims. The new law also protects health care workers or passers-by who attempt to help a drug overdose victim but unintentionally harm them. The first version of the Bill, originally entitled The Good Samaritan Act, was dramatically vetoed by Governor Chris Christie last year. However, the Governor has confirmed his support for revised legislation and this past May, signed the bipartisan Overdose Protection Act into law.
The purpose of the Act is to encourage bystanders and medical professionals to administer help to drug overdose victims without fear that their efforts will lead to criminal prosecution or civil liability. The Act provides protection for the following activities that would be crimes if the person involved was not attempting to save or get help for a drug overdose victim:
- Obtaining, possessing, using or being under the influence of a controlled substance
- Inhaling the fumes of precluded toxic chemicals
- Obtaining a controlled dangerous substance by fraud
- Using or possessing drug paraphernalia, including needles and syringes
The protection of the Act only shields those who seek medical assistance for someone in need and only if evidence of an activity listed above was obtained as a direct result of their attempt to help another person. If the evidence was obtained in another manner, the Act does not provide protection. The Act does also not provide protection for people engaged in drug trafficking and distribution.
The legislature’s intention is to foster a culture of responsibility. Acknowledging that New Jersey, like many other states, has a rising drug abuse problem, the Act seeks to reduce the number of drug-related deaths by making sure victims get help as quickly as possible.
If you have been charged with a drug-related crime while acting as a Good Samaritan for an overdose victim, hire a criminal defense lawyer experienced in successfully defending against drug charges immediately. The criminal defense attorneys at Hoffman DiMuzio have more than 35 years of success defending clients against drug crime charges.
Publication approved by Leonard L. Grasso, Jr., Associate of Hoffman DiMuzio