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Understanding North Carolina’s Good Samaritan drug overdose law

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

One of the reasons that drug overdose fatalities are so high is that people who are with the person who’s overdosing often leave the scene rather than seek emergency help out of fear they’ll be arrested for their own drug-related offenses. Sometimes, overdose victims won’t even call 911 for themselves because they’re afraid their trip to the hospital will be followed by a trip to jail.

That’s why most states, including North Carolina, have enacted some form of “Good Samaritan” limited immunity law that protects some people who seek help for someone experiencing an overdose from being charged with certain drug offenses. 

Who is protected under North Carolina’s law?

Under North Carolina law, a person who “in good faith” seeks emergency help for someone suffering an overdose won’t be arrested or charged with misdemeanor drug offenses or for felony offenses involving a small quantity of drugs or drug paraphernalia on or near them when law enforcement arrives at the scene. 

There are restrictions on who can receive immunity. Someone may only qualify, for example, if they:

  • Call 911 or seek help from law enforcement or medical personnel
  • Have a “reasonable belief” that no one else has already called for help
  • Provide their real name

The immunity extends to the person suffering the overdose for the same offenses. The immunity applies only to anything discovered as a result of the call for help. 

Another Good Samaritan law addresses the administration of naloxone

This law is separate from another North Carolina Good Samaritan law that protects those who administer the drug naloxone (more commonly known by the brand name Narcan) to someone suffering an opioid overdose from being sued if something goes wrong. However, they must use reasonable care in using it. It’s not something you just grab and try to administer without at least reading the directions.

Good Samaritan immunity laws can be confusing, both for those caught with drugs and for law enforcement officers. Overdose scenes can also be chaotic and confusing. If you believe you were wrongfully arrested and that you meet the criteria for immunity, it’s crucial to protect your rights. Getting legal guidance as soon as possible is the best way to do that.