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Will reporting a drug overdose get you in trouble?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Criminal Law |

Fear has a paralyzing effect, often preventing individuals from taking appropriate action. Witnessing a friend or loved one having an adverse reaction to illegal drugs is a terrifying experience. Despite wanting to help, you may hesitate due to the potential legal repercussions. Fortunately, New Jersey’s Good Samaritan law provides protections that should ensure your act of courage does not result in criminal charges.

The devastating impact of the opioid crisis in New Jersey

Opioids provide a high by triggering endorphins, the hormones that make you feel good. Because its effects are temporary, users will have to retake it to experience the same rush again. Over time, regular use can lead to an increase in tolerance and dependence on the drug.

An opioid overdose happens when a person consumes an excessively high amount that their body cannot process. It may induce vomiting, cause the person to become pale and make breathing difficult. Without immediate medical attention, an overdose can result in death.

In New Jersey, overdose claims the lives of over 2,800 people every year. To address this pressing problem, the state enacted the Overdose Prevention Act in 2013. Its goal is to motivate individuals to seek immediate medical assistance when witnessing an overdose, potentially saving lives.

How the Good Samaritan law protects witnesses

Often, the person who witnesses a drug overdose is a user and may naturally have reservations about calling 911. However, even without being a user, having access to drugs could be enough for a drug charge.

Because a drug charge may result in heavy fines and jail time, it might stop a person from calling for help for someone having an overdose. The state recognizes this problem and, therefore, provides immunity to those who take action during an overdose-related emergency with the Overdose Prevention Act.

With this Good Samaritan law, calling 911 for a person that you believe is experiencing an overdose grants you protection from arrest, charges, prosecution or conviction.

However, if you are facing criminal charges despite the Overdose Prevention Act, it is advisable to consult a criminal defense lawyer. Given the act’s limited scope, having a legal professional evaluate your case and advise you on what steps to take next would be beneficial.