July 10, 2022 By Paul Wallin

California’s Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Law

The leading cause of accidental death in California is drug overdose, the majority of which are caused by opioids. Nearly every state in the U.S. has enacted legislation addressing opioids, seeking solutions that decrease overdoses by expanding access to treatment, increasing naloxone access, and increasing Good Samaritan immunity. This article will address how you may have immunity from arrest and prosecution for low-level drug offenses under the naloxone and Good Samaritan laws. 

Increased Access to Naloxone and Immunity for Use 

Naloxone is a rescue drug that reverses opioid overdoses with timely administration. In light of the ongoing overdose crisis, all states have modified their laws to increase access to naloxone. California law specifically provides extremely broad immunity to individuals and organizations that administer naloxone. First, licensed health care providers who act with reasonable care in issuing a patient-specific prescription for naloxone or a naloxone standing order cannot be subject to criminal prosecution. Such health care providers also cannot be liable in a civil action and are not subject to professional review. This immunity also applies to any person who possesses or distributes naloxone pursuant to a prescription or standing order. Furthermore, even if a person is not otherwise authorized to administer naloxone, they are still provided the same immunity so long as they acted with reasonable care and in good faith, and were not compensated for administering the naloxone.

AB 472: California’s 911 Good Samaritan Law 

In addition to increased naloxone access and immunity, California also has a 911 Good Samaritan overdose fatality prevention law. Although many overdose deaths are preventable, many people fear arrest if they call for help at the scene of a suspected drug overdose. These 911 Good Samaritan laws, which also exist in several other states, are designed to encourage people to seek medical help for overdose victims by limiting prosecution or arrest for low-level drug violations. 

California’s 911 Good Samaritan law was signed into law in 2013 under Assembly Bill 472. The bill provides that it shall not be a crime for any person who seeks medical assistance for a person experiencing a drug-related overdose to be under the influence of, or to possess for personal use, a controlled substance under certain circumstances related to the overdose. The caller must have a reasonable belief that someone is experiencing an overdose emergency and must be reporting that emergency in good faith. Additionally, people seeking these protections must not obstruct medical or law enforcement personnel. 

Who Does Not Qualify for Immunity? 

Not all drug-related crimes are granted protection under this law. In general, immunity only applies to drug possession for personal use. Good Samaritan laws are not designed to protect people who possess drugs in quantities that would suggest trafficking or sales. This means that AB 472 does not affect laws prohibiting the selling, providing, giving, or exchanging of drugs, or laws prohibiting the forcible administration of drugs against a person’s will. Moreover, the bill does not affect liability for any offense that involves activities made dangerous by the consumption of controlled substances, including but not limited to driving under the influence. Finally, the law also does not offer specific protections from arrest for related charges, such as violation of parole or probation. 

If you witness a suspected overdose, call 911 and seek medical care for the victim immediately, as you will not face prosecution or arrest for low-level drug violations. You may just save a life. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have a question about whether the 911 Good Samaritan law applies to you, or if you have been wrongly arrested for a drug-related crime after calling 911, contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of drug-related cases, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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