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What is a 'Good Samaritan 911' law?

Deaths from drug overdoses are at epidemic levels. In fact, unintentional drug overdoses kill more people between 25 and 64 years old than any type of accident -- including vehicle crashes. Here in North Carolina, overdose fatalities related to opioids were over 2 percent above the national average in 2016. Both the number of heroin-related deaths and those caused by synthetic opioids rose significantly between 2010 and 2016.

Many of these overdose deaths could be prevented if the victim had received timely medical intervention. However, people who are present when an overdose occurs are often afraid to call 911 for fear that they and/or the person who overdosed will be arrested. This fear is the reason most commonly given for not calling 911 to try to save a family member, friend or acquaintance who has overdosed.

That's why many states as well as the District of Columbia have passed "Good Samaritan 911" laws. North Carolina is among those states. These laws provide immunity from charges for minor drug offenses, including possession of drugs and paraphernalia, as well as alcohol-related offenses, for those who call for help and for the victim.

These Good Samaritan 911 laws aren't a "get out of jail free" card for all drug-related crimes. For example, a person can still face charges for selling drugs or for driving under the influence.

If you or a loved one is facing drug-related charges after calling 911 to seek medical help for someone who has suffered an overdose, it's essential to seek legal guidance. A North Carolina defense attorney with experience in handling drug charges can work to make the case that the actions taken to save someone's life are mitigating circumstances.

Source: Drug Policy Alliance, "911 Good Samaritan Fatal Overdose Prevention Law," accessed June 07, 2018

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