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What is overdose immunity?

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When someone experiences an overdose, they and the people near them may feel that they have to make a hard choice between looking for help and avoiding authorities. In Colorado, that is a misconception. In Colorado, the law provides immunity for those seeking treatment for an overdose.

The Colorado Court of Appeals discussed the overdose immunity law in a recent case, People v. Harrison. The facts of the case surround a young woman who was taken to a hospital for treatment after employees at a fast-food restaurant found her unresponsive. She was then arrested and convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia, among other charges. The Court of Appeals vacated the conviction, because the manager of the restaurant had called 911 out of concern for the woman's symptoms, which were related to an overdose.

Codified Compassion

The law, often referred to as the Colorado 911 Good Samaritan Law embodies the principle that if a person's life is in danger, saving that life is a higher priority than punishing a drug user. If a person goes to the emergency room for a "drug or alcohol overdose event," they cannot be prosecuted for certain drug-related offenses, including:

  • Possession of a controlled substance
  • Use of controlled substances
  • Possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor

There are some limits in place regarding the amounts of controlled substances, such as methamphetamine and marijuana, and the law does not protect people from prosecution for unlisted offenses, which include distribution of controlled substances. In most cases, however, there is protection available.

A little help from a friend

Immunity from prosecution extends beyond the person who experiences the drug or alcohol overdose. Their friends, loved ones and even complete strangers cannot face charges simply for taking care of a person in danger. The priority is safety in the eyes of the law.

Making the right decision at the right time

In the panic of an emergency, there are so many decisions to make, and there is no time to spend on fearing arrest. You need to decide to get help, and you can do that confidently of the protections provided by this law. 

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