Know Your Rights, with attorney Jen Tocci
911 Good Samaritan Law
An overdose can be a terrifying, tragic event, and sadly, the incidence of overdoses from drugs and alcohol is increasing on Long Island. Suffolk County has the highest overdose rate of any county in New York State, and Nassau County has the fourth-highest. As a result, New York State has enacted a “911 Good Samaritan Law” to encourage people to call 911 without fear of being arrested or prosecuted for certain crimes themselves.
The statute allows for a person to call 911 in the event he/she or someone else is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose and/or life-threatening injury and is in need of medical care without being subject to arrest for certain charges.
The law protects both the caller and the overdose-victim from being prosecuted for possessing less than 8 ounces of a controlled substance, possessing any quantity of marijuana, possessing drug paraphernalia, and/or sharing drugs. Under-age drinkers are also protected from being prosecuted for consuming alcoholic beverages.
It is of vital importance to note, however, this law provides only LIMITED legal immunity and will not protect someone from arrest for possession of more than 8 ounces of any controlled substance, sale or intent to sell controlled substances, any open warrants for an arrest, or violation of probation or parole.
So please be careful; having an open warrant for an arrest is much more common than one might think. Keep in mind it is possible to have an open warrant—without being notified about it—simply by forgetting to pay a recent traffic ticket.
Additionally, the Good Samaritan Law is often invoked as a defense after an arrest has been made, since there is nothing directly unlawful about an officer arresting someone for one of these offenses, even under the aforementioned circumstances.
Furthermore, while the statute may get someone off the hook in the present situation, it will not protect that person from law enforcement during future encounters. This is important for people who live in smaller towns, especially those with their own vigorous police departments such as Northport Village and Amityville. In other words, while an officer may not arrest someone when responding to the emergency call, he/she may instead take note of that person engaging in questionable behavior for future reference. So the next time he spots your Nissan Altima with the tinted windows and borderline street-legal exhaust system doing 31 in a 30 down the only road in town you might not get off so easily.
The bottom line is that saving a life, whether it be your own, your friend’s, or that of some random person at a party, should always be the right choice. You can always hire a lawyer, but you can never go back in time and save a life.
If you think that you’ve been wrongfully arrested or ticketed by the police while they were responding to a 911 call, please contact our office for a free consultation.