Most states, including Kentucky, have a good Samaritan or immunity law that protects those who seek emergency help for themselves or others who are suffering a drug overdose. Typically, these laws involve charges for possession of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia found at the scene of an overdose.
These laws have been enacted to help reduce the alarming rate of fatal overdoses in this country. Medical and emergency professionals have made the case that many of these could be prevented if people weren’t afraid to call for help out of fear of arrest.
The Kentucky good Samaritan law, which was enacted in 2015, applies to those who make a “good faith” effort to get medical assistance for someone they believe is suffering an overdose. They need to remain on the scene until help arrives.
The law doesn’t apply if someone notifies law enforcement of a suspected overdose during an arrest or lawful search. It also doesn’t apply to any other criminal activity, including drug-related activity, outside of the scene of the suspected overdose.
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the law
Last year, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in two cases of people who challenged their arrests, claiming they were protected under this law. The court’s ruling narrowed the scope of the law because it stated that for a person to qualify for immunity, they don’t have to be correct that a person had overdosed. However, they at least must have a reasonable belief that a person has overdosed (as opposed, for example, to passing out or falling asleep).
Anyone’s first responsibility to any situation where they believe someone has suffered a medical emergency needs to be getting them help rather than worrying about the legal consequences to themselves. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges for which you believe this immunity law applies, it’s important to seek legal guidance to help ensure that your rights are protected.