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Could you face drug charges if you report an overdose?

Posted on October 3, 2021

Too often, the reason that people don’t survive overdoses of illegal drugs is that the people who are with them when they overdose are afraid to call for help – particularly if they gave or sold the overdose victim their drugs. They know that if they call 911, the police will get involved, and they fear that they will be arrested – even if they were merely a bystander.

That’s why most states, including Colorado, have “overdose immunity” or “Good Samaritan” laws that provide some protection for those who seek medical aid for a person who has overdosed.

Whom does Colorado law protect?

Under Colorado law, people are granted immunity from arrest and prosecution for possession or use of a controlled substance if:

  • They report “in good faith” a drug or alcohol overdose to 911, a medical provider or law enforcement.
  • They stay at the scene until an emergency responder or law enforcement officer arrives (or until an officer arrives if they take the person to a medical facility like a hospital).
  • They identify themselves and cooperate with any medical providers, emergency personnel or law enforcement officers they deal with in the course of the event.

This immunity also applies to any underage person where alcohol is involved as well as to the overdose victim themselves, as long as the conditions above are met.

This immunity isn’t all-encompassing

This immunity doesn’t extend to any offense beyond that related directly to the overdose. For example, if the police show up at an overdose scene someone has called them to and find stolen goods or some other kind of illegal activity going on, anyone believed to be engaged in it can be arrested and prosecuted for other crimes.

This is certainly a lot to consider in the moments when you believe someone’s life is in danger and you just want to help them. However, if you’re facing charges because of a situation where you got help for someone in serious distress and cooperated with authorities, it’s crucial to seek experienced legal guidance to protect your rights.