As states have struggled to deal with the epidemic of opioid and other drug overdose deaths, they’ve enacted “Good Samaritan” or “immunity” laws. These allow people to seek emergency help for someone (themselves or another person) who’s suffering an overdose without risking arrest and conviction for having drugs in their possession.
Maryland’s law provides immunity for some criminal offenses for those who, in good faith, seek help for someone having either a drug or alcohol medical emergency, as well as immunity for the person who needs help.
The offenses for which people can receive immunity include:
- Possession or use of a controlled substance
- Possession or use of drug paraphernalia
- Minor in possession of alcohol
- Obtaining and/or furnishing alcohol to an underage person
A person who seeks help also won’t be penalized for any parole, probation or pretrial release violation. This immunity applies if the evidence of any criminal wrongdoing was found only as the result of that person seeking emergency medical aid.
Some Marylanders want to see the law expanded
Some people who work in the drug abuse field are concerned that not enough people – including some law enforcement officers – understand the law. Others say it doesn’t go far enough.
There’s currently a bill in the state legislature that would expand the protections of the Good Samaritan Law. Specifically, as it reads now, it would also provide immunity for distribution offenses as well as non-drug or alcohol-related misdemeanor offenses discovered because of the call for help.
Not all lawmakers are on board with expanding the immunity. However, one of the delegates behind the revised law says, “This doesn’t stop us from investigating situations and then finding out…if there needs to be further investigation. [It] puts a hold on the ability to… arrest somebody or serve a warrant on them at the time that they call for help so we can save lives.”
Note that the legislature has not yet passed this revised bill. Even if they do, it would need to be signed by the governor.
In the meantime, however, it’s important to understand the current law. If you or a loved one has wrongly been charged with an offense that should carry immunity under Maryland’s Good Samaritan Law, it’s crucial to seek legal guidance.