Can You be Arrested for Overdosing on Drugs in Tennessee?
As the opioid epidemic continues to sweep the nation, lawmakers are becoming more conscious of the risks of drugs and criminalizing drug activity. While it is possible to face drug charges after overdosing in Tennessee, there is a Good Samaritan law that may provide some relief for those seeking medical attention to help a person who is overdosing or even to the person who is going through the overdose process. However, it is important to understand the nuances of this law to know when it may apply and the protections it provides.
How the law works
The law states that any person who seeks medical assistance in good faith for a person who is currently overdosing shall not be charged, arrested or prosecuted for a drug violation if the evidence for such criminal proceedings would be based on seeking and receiving such medical assistance. This law applies to bystanders witnessing such an overdose or the person who is experiencing the overdose. However, for the person experiencing the overdose, the immunity from prosecution and criminal charges only applies to the person’s first such overdose.
Drug overdose defined
The law protects the individuals if the person is actually overdosing or is believed to be overdosing. A drug overdose is defined as an acute condition believed to be linked to the use, inhalation, ingestion or injection of a controlled substance that may involve some of the following symptoms:
- Decreased level of consciousness
- Extreme physical illness
- Respiratory depression
Seeking medical assistance
The immunity from prosecution only applies if the person experiencing the overdose or a bystander calls 911 for assistance, contacts a poison control center or law enforcement or provides care while awaiting assistance.
As explained above, for the person experiencing the drug overdose, immunity under this law is only available for the first time that this situation arises. Law enforcement is not prohibited from prosecuting drug charges if they have evidence not related to the seeking of medical assistance. If the defendant was committing another crime not related to the overdose, law enforcement may still be able to arrest him or her and continue with the prosecution for other crimes.
Even if the immunity law does not apply, seeking medical assistance may be used as a mitigating factor in the criminal prosecution.
Murfreesboro drug defense lawyers at Dotson and Taylor Attorneys at Law understand how drug addiction can affect a person’s life and are compassionate to those offering assistance to others. We have more than 35 years of combined experience defending those facing criminal charges. Contact us online or call us at 615-890-1982 to schedule a confidential consultation.