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What is Missouri’s “Good Samaritan Law” in Regard to Drug Overdoses?

In 2017, the Missouri Legislature passed SB 501, which is commonly referred to as the “Good Samaritan Law.” The law is designed to reduce overdose fatalities by providing immunity from criminal prosecution for certain crimes for people who witness or experience a drug or alcohol overdose or another medical emergency. 

Broadly speaking, the law provides immunity for low-level drug and alcohol violations so that people are not disincentivized to seek medical help. In other words, if you are in possession of drugs and you witness someone overdosing, you can call 911 and not have to worry that the state is going to prosecute you for a possession crime.  The same is true if you are a minor witnessing an alcohol overdose while you are in possession of alcohol.

According to the MO-HOPE Project, the law provides immunity from the following offenses:

  • Possession of drug paraphernalia (RSMO 579.074)
  • Possession of a controlled substance (RSMO 579.015)
  • Possession of an imitation controlled substance (RSMO 579.078)
  • Keeping or maintaining a public nuisance (RSMO 579.105)
  • Sale of alcohol to a minor (RSMO 311.310)
  • Possession of an altered ID (RSMO 311.320)
  • Purchase or possession of alcohol by a minor (RSMO 311.325)
  • Violation of a restraining order
  • Violation of probation or parole

Immunity is Not Always Automatic

Unfortunately, the law does not always work as intended. First of all, it does not shield individuals from prosecution from all drug crimes. If the police believe they have sufficient evidence to move forward with a distribution of a controlled substance case, for example, they may arrest you, and the prosecutor may file charges. Furthermore, on a case-by-case basis, police and prosecutors may move forward with a drug possession case in spite of the law, potentially resulting in serious legal consequences. Some of the more serious consequences of a drug crime conviction in Missouri include:

  • Fines
  • Jail time
  • Mandatory drug and alcohol testing
  • Difficulty getting a job or renting an apartment
  • Problems getting into school or obtaining student loans

Because of these potentially serious penalties, if you have contacted emergency services relying on the Good Samaritan Law as a shield, it’s important that you discuss your situation with an experienced attorney – even if you have not been charged with a crime yet. In cases involving the Good Samaritan Law, the representation of an experienced lawyer may help avoid charges from being filed in the first place or the dismissal of an existing case. 

Bruntrager & Billings built their practice on Criminal Law. Starting as prosecutors and now working as defense attorneys, we have seen both sides of these cases and so are excellently equipped to get the best possible outcome for our clients. 

Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a St. Louis Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of a drug crime after reporting an overdose or otherwise, it’s highly advisable that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. There may be defenses available that could result in your case being dropped, an acquittal, or a significant mitigation of the consequences you are facing. Call Bruntrager & Billings today to schedule a free case evaluation with a criminal defense lawyer in St. Louis, call our office today at 314-646-0066 or contact us online.

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