Can Someone Be Charged With Possession if They Overdose in Louisiana?
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Drug overdoses are serious medical emergencies. According to the CDC, overdose death due to illicit drugs increased by 5% between 2018 and 2019. Over the last 20+ years, approximately 500,000 people have died from an opioid overdose in the United States. In the state of Louisiana alone, there was an 11% increase in overdose deaths between the same period.
With overdoses being as prevalent as they are in the United States, it is possible that anyone could find themselves in a situation where they may need to intervene to assist someone who has overdosed. It is essential to know about drug overdose stats, protocol, and where you can help. This article seeks to shed light on whether someone who suffers a drug overdose or chooses to help an overdose victim could get into legal trouble for possession of a controlled dangerous substance.
THE LAW IN LOUISIANA CONCERNING OVERDOSE, POSSESSION, AND PROSECUTION
According to the Louisiana State law, someone who decides to seek medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose is protected from prosecution, legal charges, and penalization for possession of a controlled dangerous substance. However, this only applies if the evidence of possession was collected because of the person’s actions in seeking help. Also, it does not protect the person seeking help if they assisted the overdose victim in obtaining the substance and/or administering the substance that caused the medical emergency.
Here is a summarization of what part A of the statute says:
If a person essentially seeks medical assistance to help another individual who is potentially overdosing from illegal drug misuse, they are protected under the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law. The law states that he or she may not be charged or face penalties if trying to get help for the individual if seeking help is what is evidence of criminal wrongdoing. This law is disqualified if the person provided the drugs or administered the drugs to the individual experiencing the overdose.
Overdose victims also receive protection from prosecution, legal charges, and penalization for possession if the evidence for possession was obtained due to them reaching out for medical help concerning their overdose emergency.
Here is a summarization of what part B of the statute states:
A person experiencing an overdose can not be prosecuted for overdosing if the need for medical assistance is what leads to evidence of the crime or possession of a controlled dangerous substance..
WHAT ARE “GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS?”
Good Samaritan Laws are laws that protect those who help others in emergencies. In the case of an overdose in Louisiana, it covers both the people who help and those who ask for help in an overdose emergency. These are laws that have been put in place over time to protect “someone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured person on a voluntary basis.”
In the case of a drug overdose, those who assist in getting medical attention to the victim may not be charged with possession of illicit drugs if they have those drugs within their possession.
The National Conference of State Legislatures published an article in 2017 explaining how the Good Samaritan Laws apply to overdose cases. The issue originated from a lack of access to a medication called Naloxone. It is an opioid antagonist that attaches to opioid receptors and blocks other opioids from attaching. There was no provision for non-medical professionals to have access to something like Naloxone for emergency use legally.
Many states started passing laws to curb the overdose numbers nationally. By providing access and training in administering Naloxone and protections for those who may find themselves rendering aid to overdose victims, they hoped it would encourage more people to step in and assist in those situations.
New Mexico was the first state to enact laws of this nature. There are approximately 40 states that have laws of this nature now, Louisiana being one of them. As of 2014, 26,000 overdoses had been reversed, thanks to people having access to Naloxone and using it to help others.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
The logic behind this law is that those who overdose may also have the drug in their possession at the time of the overdose. Similarly, those capable of helping overdose victims may be in close proximity to the illicit drugs or maybe even participants in the crime.
By providing immunity from prosecution for possessing the drugs, it is the hope of the government that people will more readily come to the aid of others without fear of repercussions.
It is also hoped that those who overdose will not be afraid to seek or receive help and would have an opportunity to attend rehab and deal with their substance abuse problems.
CONCLUSION: Can Someone Be Charged With Possession if They Overdose in Louisiana?
So, can someone be prosecuted and charged for possession when they overdose in the state of Louisiana? According to the Louisiana legislature, no. There are protections in place for those who either aid someone who has overdosed or the overdose victim themselves from prosecution by invalidating any evidence collected during the incident regarding the victim’s possession of it.
One other fact should be mentioned: The law does not allow the suppression of evidence collected for use in other criminal investigations. So, just because it is in the victim’s possession does not mean it cannot be used at all.
The Good Samaritan Laws are a helpful measure in encouraging people to get involved and help others in need. Hopefully, people will continue to be encouraged to lend a helping hand.
Carl Barkemeyer, Criminal Defense Attorney of Baton Rouge Louisiana can help you if you are facing charges from drug possession or an overdose. Take a look at his profile on Google and Justia to learn more about his practice areas and level of expertise as an attorney.
We hope you now understand the answer to your question: can someone be charged with possession if they overdose in Louisiana and wish you luck.