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Maryland's Good Samaritan law

Maryland's Good Samaritan Act went into effect in the fall of 2014. It had been four years since health officials started seeing a steady rise in heroin overdoses by users looking for an easily accessible, affordable alternative to prescription opioids. The Good Samaritan law is part of the state's efforts to reduce the rate of drug overdoses by 20 percent before the end of 2015.

The law provides limited immunity from prosecution for individuals who seek or provide medical help when another person overdoses on alcohol on drugs. The person who overdoses also may be granted immunity. The law does not apply to all offenders or all violations: An attorney can explain the conditions under which a defendant does not have immunity.

People who report overdoses have added legal protection from drug charges provided they act in "good faith," stay with the overdose victim until medical help arrives and cooperate with authorities. Immunity generally applies only to low-key drug possession and personal use violations, not trafficking or manufacturing charges – a criminal defense attorney can explain further.

Many states have similar laws to encourage individuals to save lives by reporting overdoses, in particular prescription opioid overdoses which tripled nationwide since 1990. Prescription opioids are synthetic painkillers offering a high similar to heroin. Opioid overdoses are not immediately fatal, which gives medical personnel time to counteract the effects of the painkillers, provided someone reports the overdose in time.

The antidote for an opioid overdose is a drug called naloxone. Some states' Good Samaritan laws grant immunity to individuals who have and administer the antidote to overdose victims. Immunity is necessary since naloxone cannot be used without a prescription even by emergency responders, unless state laws allow it.

An attorney can provide defendants with additional provisions contained in Maryland's Good Samaritan law and the immunity it may provide in a drug case.

Source: Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, "Overdose Prevention in Maryland," accessed June 26, 2015

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