Save a Life. Don’t Run, Call 911! You Can Save a Life without Risking Prosecution for Possession of Drugs.
It’s now the law in Illinois.
What does this new law (EMS Access Act also known as Good Samaritan) do?
You cannot be charged with possession of small amounts of illegal drugs for calling 911 or taking someone to an emergency room that has a small amount of drugs in their possession.
What is considered a small amount of drugs?
Under this new law possession of up to 3 grams or less of heroin or cocaine and less than one gram of methamphetamine would be immune from prosecution. Please refer to Illinois Public Act 097-0678 for information on specific drugs and weight limits. Or visit www.StopOverdoseIL.org for more information.
Are there any drugs that are not covered under this law?
Yes. Marijuana (cannabis) is not covered under this law. If you are in possession of cannabis, this law will not protect you from prosecution. All other drugs are covered under this law, but weight restrictions apply, visit www.StopOverdoseIL.org for more information.
Who gets the protection from prosecution? Everyone? Or just the caller?
Only the caller and the overdosing person receive protection. The law does NOT provide immunity to other individuals at the scene. It does not provide immunity to people who sold or delivered the drugs to the overdosing person.
Does the law’s immunity apply to an alcohol overdose that involves a minor?
No. The term “controlled substance” has a specific legal definition and does not include alcohol on the list of these substances. However, there may be community ordinances or other policies in place for underage individuals calling for help in the event of alcohol poisoning. College students should check to see if there university has an amnesty program that allows students to report an alcohol overdose without receiving sanctions for violating an alcohol use policy.
Does the law apply if the person dies from the overdose?
Yes. As long as the caller sought medical attention for the overdosing person in good faith-meaning the 911 call was placed when the person was alive- the caller will still receive immunity from possession charges. If the caller is the person who gave or sold the victim the drugs that led to the overdose, the caller could be charged with Drug Induced Homicide. In that case, the fact that the person tried to get medical help may be used by the judge as a reason for getting a shorter sentence.
The 911 law refers to “seeking emergency medical help.” Does the immunity apply only when calling 911, or will it also apply I take the overdose victim to an emergency room?
The immunity applies to any “good faith effort” to seek emergency medical help, whether that is calling 911 or taking the overdose victim to an emergency room. Remember, though, that the key to saving a life from overdose is to get professional medical help the fastest way possible. If your community has an emergency medical response system in place, it is best to call 911 in the event of an overdose. In rural areas it might be different.
Does the law prevent police officers from arresting a person or persons currently under investigation on a separate drug charge?
No. The law does not provide immunity if the individual is already a part of an ongoing investigation, even if the person in question calls 911 in the event of an overdose.
Does the law prevent prosecutors from charging a person with drug-induced homicide?
No. This law only covers individuals who possess small amounts of drugs. People who deliver, sell or traffic drugs to someone who dies of a drug overdose are not covered under this legislation.
What if I lie and say that someone is overdosing in order to stop the police from charging me with possession. Would this work?
No. A person who claims that they are seeking emergency help for a life threatening overdose who lies might be subject to additional penalties besides the possession charges.
What happens if I call 911 and someone is having an overdose? How do I make sure I don’t get charged?
It is important to talk to the EMTs about the person’s condition to save their life. Should the police come, it’s important to know your rights. Visit the ACLU for more information about your rights under the law.