Ohio recently enacted a new law in an attempt to save lives as part in light of the state’s worsening opioid and heroin overdose epidemic. On September 13, 2016, House Bill 110, also known as the Good Samaritan Law became effective. This law prevents overdose victims and those calling for aid from being charged criminally for minor drug possession offenses, which covers all misdemeanor and fifth degree felony possession offenses.
In order to qualify for this immunity, the individual must, in good faith, seek or obtain medical assistance for an individual (be it themselves or another individual) experiencing a drug overdose. “Medical assistance” includes, but is not limited to, making a 9-1-1 call, contacting in person or by telephone call an on-duty peace officer, or transporting a person to a health care facility.
If the individual meets the above criteria, and the sole evidence in his or her case was obtained as a result of seeking medical assistance then he or she will not be prosecuted for the minor drug offense(s) so long as the individual undergoes a drug screening and receives a referral for treatment within 30 days from the date of the offense. The individual is then required to satisfy the requirements of his or her treatment plan.
Not everyone is entitled to this immunity. In order to qualify under this law, the individual cannot be on community control (probation) or post-release control. Also, this immunity can only be used by an individual two times.
While this is not completely a get out of jail free card, it is certainly a starting point in battling the heroin epidemic. It will hopefully lead to less overdose deaths as it incentivizes seeking help. Although charges could still be brought against an individual if they have a substantial amount of drugs or if they fail to seek treatment within 30 days, it is clear that the legislature is prioritizing treatment over punishment in order to address this ongoing problem. If you have questions regarding this new law feel free to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima for a free consultation.