As the number of drug overdose fatalities became an epidemic throughout the country, states, including Montana, began enacting laws to encourage people to get help for those suffering an overdose rather than flee the scene with their own drugs. Because people often fear that they’ll be arrested if they call 911 or otherwise seek help, they too often leave someone to die or succumb to their own overdose.
These laws vary somewhat by state. Let’s take a look at Montana’s “Good Samaritan’s Protections” law.
What does the law say?
Under Montana law, a person won’t be charged with relatively minor offenses related to possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia if the evidence of those offenses was discovered only because they sought help for what they reasonably believed was an overdose. That also applies to the person who is suffering an overdose – whether they call for help for themselves or someone else does.
Those who seek help also won’t be penalized for violating a condition of probation, parole, protective order or pretrial/supervised release. Further, this law protects pregnant women who seek help for a substance abuse disorder.
It’s important to understand that the Good Samaritan law doesn’t provide immunity if evidence of more serious drug offenses (like trafficking) or non-drug-related offenses is discovered because someone sought help for a suspected overdose. However, the law does state that the “act of providing first aid or other medical assistance to a person who is experiencing an actual or reasonably perceived drug-related overdose may be used as a mitigating factor in a criminal prosecution for which immunity is not provided under this section.”
The goal of laws like this is that people will think and act out of concern for someone’s (or their own) health and safety rather than worry about potential legal consequences for their personal use of drugs. Of course, the reality of an overdose scene is often messy and chaotic. If you believe you’ve been wrongfully arrested and charged or you believe that your actions should be considered if you’ve been charged with an offense not covered under the law, it’s wise to get legal guidance as soon as possible to help protect your rights.