How many people in North Carolina die from drug overdoses because the people with whom they’re using drugs – who may have also supplied them – fear that they’ll be arrested if they call 911 or take the person who’s overdosing to the hospital or an urgent care facility?
We can’t know the true number. That’s because too many people panic and leave the scene – often leaving the victim to die.
North Carolina offers limited immunity
Most states, including North Carolina, have enacted “good Samaritan” laws that offer protections for those who seek help for someone suffering an overdose – including the overdose victim themselves if they call for help. Under North Carolina law, a person who seeks help “in good faith” for someone who has overdosed won’t be prosecuted if they have a small quantity of drugs or drug paraphernalia. Specifically, they need to call 911 or get help from law enforcement or emergency medical personnel.
To qualify for immunity, the person who seeks help must have a “reasonable belief” that they were the first and/or only one to seek help and provide their real name. The notification doesn’t count if it’s made while law enforcement officers are already present and in the process of a legal search or arrest.
Another good Samaritan law involves the administration of the emergency drug naloxone. It is administered to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This isn’t a drug that should be administered carelessly.
North Carolina law protects those who administer the drug from being sued as long as they used reasonable care (at least reading the instructions first) in doing so. They may also have immunity from prosecution if they qualify under the other criteria, such as calling 911.
If you believe you’ve been wrongly charged with a drug-related crime when you should have immunity based on the actions you took to help someone suffering an overdose, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to understand and protect your rights.