Ohio, like most states, has a “Good Samaritan” law that provides immunity from arrest and prosecution for minor drug offenses if they were discovered by law enforcement solely because a person sought help for themselves or someone else they believed was suffering a drug overdose.
The purpose of these laws, which vary somewhat from state to state, is to cut down on the number of fatal drug overdoses. Often, these fatalities can be prevented if the person who’s overdosing gets treatment quickly. However, those with the person often simply flee the scene rather than call for help out of fear they’ll be arrested or, if they’re the one overdosing, won’t even call 911 for themselves.
Under the law, seeking help can involve calling 911. However, other options are included as well, which may allow the person to get help faster. These include “contacting in person or by telephone call an on-duty peace officer, or transporting or presenting a person to a health care facility.”
What offenses are covered under the law?
Ohio law states that immunity in the situations described above is for any “minor drug possession offense,” which is defined as a misdemeanor or a fifth-degree felony. Just last month, the law was amended to include drug paraphernalia offenses as well. The idea is that people won’t be penalized for having a small amount of drugs on them.
While you may not be arrested, you aren’t completely off the hook. The law requires anyone who qualifies for this immunity to undergo a drug screening within 30 days, get a referral for drug treatment and submit proof to the court that they did these things.
This is just a brief outline of the current law, with the most recent changes. What’s important to know is that you’re likely protected from arrest for having a personal supply of drugs and paraphernalia on you at the scene of an overdose. If you are arrested, it’s wise to get legal guidance right away to protect your rights under the law.