Being arrested for drug possession when you are attempting to help someone who overdosed sends the wrong message. It can put lives at risk by discouraging calling for help. This is exactly why The 911 Good Samaritan Act was passed. However, this is still misunderstood by many. So, what is criminal immunity in drug possession cases?
Florida Drug Possession Law
Florida boasts some of the strictest drug laws across the nation. Florida’s drug possession laws and charges are enshrined in Statute 893.13. These charges can land an individual with a five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. Penalties and sentencing depend on the case facts, the type of drug, and the amount of the drug. Possession of certain types and varieties of drugs will be much stricter and could mean an individual faces minimum sentencing of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Because of the strict nature of the penalties for drug possession charges, many lives that could have been saved by prompt calls for medical attention were lost from fear of arrest and incarceration. Something needed to be done to ensure those in danger received the help they needed, leading to immunity in drug possession cases to be considered.
The 911 Good Samaritan Act
The process for which criminal immunity is granted in Florida was established in Statute 893.21. Known as “The 911 Good Samaritan Act,” the Statute states that:
(1) A person acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose may not be charged, prosecuted, or penalized pursuant to this chapter for possession of a controlled substance if the evidence for possession of a controlled substance was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.
(2) A person who experiences a drug-related overdose and is in need of medical assistance may not be charged, prosecuted, or penalized pursuant to this chapter for possession of a controlled substance if the evidence for possession of a controlled substance was obtained as a result of the overdose and the need for medical assistance.
(3) Protection in this section from prosecution for possession offenses under this chapter may not be grounds for suppression of evidence in other criminal prosecutions.
Put simply, if you are with an individual who has overdosed on drugs, or knows someone who has, you cannot be prosecuted by the police for any drug paraphernalia or substances they find on you when you call the emergency services.
The Case of Thomas Pope
The Good Samaritan law was enforced most recently in the case of Thomas John Pope, who had a 15-month drug sentence overturned by Florida’s First District Court of Appeals. Pope had been arrested in 2016 when, while doing heroin with friends, “one woman overdosed and stopped breathing.” He immediately called 911 and followed their advice concerning CPR.
He also, however, moved her body outside in order to conceal his own drug use and paraphernalia. Prosecutors argued that Pope, who was arrested and charged with drug offenses, should have done more, but the appeals court ruled that the Good Samaritan Act does not make provisions for an individual’s conduct beyond the fact they sought out emergency help for a person in danger.
Contact a South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are arrested for drug possession after calling emergency services for someone who overdoses, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.
Chad Piotrowski has an extensive background in aggressively defending his clients from charges ranging from marijuana possession to armed drug trafficking and murder. A former prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Chad Piotrowski has the unique ability to anticipate prosecution strategies to help build a solid defense to help obtain the best possible outcome for his clients.