Many overdose deaths are preventable but the fear of being arrested can keep people from calling emergency services for help.
California, like many other states, have special laws in place to make sure people feel safe to call 911 when someone overdoses. This is called a Good Samaritan Law.
California’s 911 Good Samaritan law, AB-472, gives people who seek emergency medical help at the scene of a suspected overdose limited protection from arrest, charge, and prosecution.
What Does “Limited Protection” Mean?
The short answer: You cannot be arrested, charged, or prosecuted for drug possession or being under the influence if you are seeking medical assistance for someone who has overdosed.
You are not, however, protected from criminal charges if you’re found to be selling drugs or doing something dangerous while under the influence (like driving).
When in Doubt: Call 911
California’s Good Samaritan Law is designed to encourage people to call 911 in overdose situations without fear of legal repercussions, so that they can get the help they need in a timely manner.
If you’re still concerned about police presence at the scene of an overdose, you don’t have to tell the 911 dispatcher specifically that someone has overdosed. Simply explain that someone is unresponsive or has stopped breathing; emergency medical services will be dispatched and you can provide more details to them when they arrive.
The Good Samaritan Law exists to protect people who just want to help. If you suspect someone has overdosed, call 911 immediately. You might save their life!