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The Good Samaritan Law and Drug Overdoses

In an effort to prevent overdose deaths, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted the Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act (“Act”) to provide for immunity from prosecution for certain minor possessory crimes when a person has a reasonable belief someone is suffering from an overdose and contacts local authorities.

The Act, sometimes referred to as the “Good Samaritan Law” protects and provides immunity from prosecution to both the reporter and the victim, so long as several conditions are met.

  1. There must be a reasonable belief, based upon the circumstances, that another is suffering a drug overdose.
  2. The burden of proof under the Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act is not on the Commonwealth; rather, the defendant must establish that he is entitled to immunity under the Act.
  3. The Act provides immunity for only certain, specifically-enumerated offenses, namely 35 P.S. §§ 780-113(a)(5), (16), (19), (31), (32), (33) and (37), and probation and parole violations. See § 780-113.7(b) of the Act. These Crimes Include:
    • Adulteration, mutilation destruction, obliteration, or removal in whole or in part of the labeling of any drug. § 780-113(a)(5);
    • Knowingly or intentionally possessing a controlled or counterfeit substance. § 780-113(a)(16);
    • The intentional purchase or knowing receipt in commerce by any person or any controlled substance. § 780-113(a)(19);
    • Possession of a small amount of marijuana. § 780-113(a)(31);
    • Possession of drug paraphernalia. § 780-113(a)(32);
    • Delivery of drug paraphernalia. § 780-113(1)(33);
    • Possession of more than thirty doses, other than registrant, of any anabolic steroids. § 780-113(1)(37);
  4. The Drug Overdose Response Immunity Act prohibits the interference with or prevention of the investigation, arrest, charging or prosecution of a person for “any other crime not set forth in subsection (b).” See listed crimes.

If you’ve been charged with a drug offense as listed above and you were assisting another that was suffering an overdose, you have an affirmative defense to the charge(s). You may contact us at our office or online.