As state lawmakers throughout the country have struggled to deal with the alarming number of drug overdose fatalities, they’ve been enacting laws they hope will encourage bystanders to get help rather than run away. These “Good Samaritan” laws vary by state, but they typically provide immunity from prosecution for low-level drug charges for those who seek help for an overdose victim (including themselves).
In 2021, Texas enacted its version of the law – known as the Jessica Sosa Act. The law provides immunity from charges for drug possession and use to those who seek emergency medical help for a person they believe is overdosing. For immunity to apply, the person must be the first one to call for or otherwise seek help during a suspected overdose.
Does the law have too many restrictions?
Some medical professionals and other advocates, however, would like to see some changes to the relatively new law. They say there are too many exceptions. For example, it doesn’t apply if the person seeking help has a felony conviction on their record or has made the same type of call in the past 18 months.
It’s also important to note that the immunity provided by the law extends only to drug-related offenses discovered because of the call for help. It doesn’t provide immunity for other types of offenses. For example, it doesn’t apply if stolen goods or illegal weapons were found at the scene. It also doesn’t apply if police are notified of an overdose while already on the scene for a search, questioning or arrest. One Texas A&M University professor says he believes, “These caveats….were political compromises” to get the law passed and signed.
Of course, you never do the wrong thing by seeking emergency help for someone in distress. That action should always be considered a mitigating factor even if a person is arrested and charged with a crime as a result of acting responsibly. That’s just one reason why having experienced legal guidance if you’ve been arrested – whether wrongfully or not – is crucial.