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Ohio Good Samaritan law may not protect against drug charges

Laws throughout the state of Ohio that are designed to protect people reporting drug overdoses may actually lead to unfair prosecution, according to legal experts. Authorities say that the drug charges are stemming from so-called "Good Samaritan" laws, remain a mystery to prosecutors and may actually prevent concerned citizens from calling 911. Each county in Ohio is responsible for figuring out how to implement the law, which is designed to protect those who act in good faith to help in the event of an overdose.

Experts say that residents in different counties may be subjected to different applications of the Good Samaritan regulation. The rules stipulate several requirements to qualify for immunity -- the person must be seeking help for overdose in good faith (either for themselves or another person), and the individual must also seek assistance and screening through drug treatment programs. Individuals are limited to only two instances of immunity.

Authorities say that, although the Good Samaritan law is designed to provide public health assistance and eliminate the risk of drug charges for those reporting overdose, the law has a lot of holes. The legislation only offers immunity for certain types of charges, including misdemeanor and fifth-degree drug possession. The immunity is not relevant for charges such as child endangerment, possession of paraphernalia, or driving under the influence.

Advocates believe that these stipulations could have a chilling effect on reporting overdoses, largely because people are afraid of being subject to drug charges if they help their friends. Individuals who are facing prosecution despite these Good Samaritan laws may have several arguments for criminal defense. Attorneys throughout Ohio are fighting for the fair applications of this law.

Source: Canton Repository, "Ohio law designed to curb overdose deaths has complications," Shane Hoover, Dec. 18, 2016

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