If you have a drug habit – or even just casually indulge occasionally – you’re probably very conscious of the risks. The influx of high-powered “Frankenstein” opioids into the state has a lot of people on all sides of the equation anxious about overdoses.
It’s wise, then, to know your rights and obligations under Ohio’s Good Samaritan laws if someone overdoses in your presence.
You may be protected from arrest if you call 911
Since 2016, the Ohio Revised Code has offered some limited legal protections for people who call 911 when they witness someone overdose. Under the law, you may not be charged with minor drug possession charges (so long as the crime would be a fifth-degree felony or less) if the first responders discover your stash when they arrive.
However, this rule comes with a few major caveats. Those legal protections do not extend to drug paraphernalia, which means you can be charged for having a pipe, needles, scales or baggies in your possession.
In addition, to qualify for immunity from prosecution:
- You cannot be on parole or probation
- You cannot have received immunity more than twice before
- You must seek drug screening within 30 days
- You must receive a referral to addiction counseling within 30 days
- You must provide the prosecutor’s office with proof of your screening and referral
Many have suggested that the law doesn’t go far enough to protect a vulnerable population and that drug overdoses would be drastically reduced if the immunity provisions could be broadened – but, for now, this is the only option that you may have.
If you do end up facing charges connected to drug use after making a 911 call to save a friend, make sure that you fully explore all your legal defenses.