Ohio has recently enacted a “Good Samaritan” law pertaining to the prosecution of persons for a minor drug possession offense after seeking medical assistance for themselves or another regarding a drug overdose. The following is a brief overview of the new law.
The law is part of O.R.C. 2925.11 Possession of Controlled Substances. It was recently enacted in response to the current heroin epidemic in Ohio and throughout the nation. The premise behind the law is to allow people to seek medical assistance in drug overdose situations without fear of criminal prosecution and to encourage such persons to seek treatment.
The law applies to “Qualified Individuals”. This is a person who is not on community control (probation) or post release control (parole) who seeks medical assistance for themselves or another who is experiencing a drug overdose situation.
The offenses which are covered by the law are “Minor Drug Possession Offenses” which is a drug possession offense that is a misdemeanor or felony of the fifth degree. This would cover possession of small amounts of controlled substances which are typically recovered in an overdose situation. Prosecution for possession of larger amounts of drugs that would constitute a fourth degree felony or higher is not affected by the new law.
Under the new Ohio “Good Samaritan Law” a Qualified Individual cannot be arrested or prosecuted for a Minor Drug Possession Offense if all the following apply:
- The drugs that were recovered by law enforcement were found as a result of the person or another seeking medical assistance for them in a drug overdose situation.
- Within thirty days the person seeks and obtains a screening and receives a referral for treatment from an accredited addiction treatment program or professional.
- If requested by a prosecutor, the person submits documentation that verifies the date and time of the screening and the referral received.
The typical situation where the new law would apply is when a parent, friend or family member of a person calls 911 when they discover the person has overdosed. The police respond to the call as well, and often the drugs the person was using are still present at the scene. With the use of narcan the overdosing person is quickly revived. Instead the person being arrested for possessing drugs, they now have the option of seeking treatment for their addiction. If they fail to do so they can then be prosecuted. This is a new approach in the effort to stem the tide of senseless deaths caused by opiate overdoses which emphasizes treatment over prosecution.