A number of states, including South Dakota, have laws that protect people from drug-related criminal charges if they seek emergency medical help for someone who’s overdosing – including themselves.
These “Good Samaritan” laws are intended to reduce the number of fatal drug overdoses that occur because people around the overdose victim fail to get help because they’re afraid of being arrested. Sometimes, sadly, people die from drug overdoses because they were afraid to call for help for themselves.
The limits of South Dakota drug immunity laws
These laws do have limits. Under South Dakota law, for a person who reports a drug overdose to receive immunity from drug charges, law enforcement must have obtained the evidence against them solely because they called for help. For example, when police arrived at the scene after the 911 call, they found drugs scattered on the person who made the call.
For immunity to apply, the overdose reporter must remain at the scene and cooperate with responding emergency and law enforcement personnel. Further, a person can only be granted immunity under these laws one time – whether it’s for their own overdose or someone else’s.
This is just a brief overview of South Dakota’s drug overdose immunity laws. There are other restrictions regarding what kind of offenses won’t be prosecuted.
Certainly, if a person witnesses an overdose or suffers one themselves, their first priority should be seeking medical attention regardless of the consequences. However, if you have been arrested and charged with a drug-related crime after calling 911 or otherwise seeking emergency medical attention for an overdose, it’s important to ensure that your rights are protected. Having experienced legal guidance is a good first step.