You may have heard that most states have some type of “Good Samaritan” law that protects people from facing legal consequences for their own drug use if it’s discovered only because they’ve sought emergency assistance for themselves or for someone who appeared to be suffering an overdose. These laws have been enacted to try to minimize preventable overdose fatalities.
While Indiana has a law that provides some protections, it’s far more limited and restrictive than most other state laws. As such, understanding key requirements for obtaining immunity from prosecution and when it doesn’t apply can be helpful.
The requirements and restrictions of Indiana’s law
For legal safeguards to apply, the person who seeks help for someone must generally first administer naloxone (Narcan) that’s been obtained legally. Further, they must remain at the scene and provide law enforcement with their name and any other information they ask for.
Unlike in many states, Indiana law doesn’t provide immunity for a person who is suffering an overdose. It provides immunity for the person seeking help (if they’ve complied with the other requirements) for possession of controlled substances, synthetic drugs, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana as well as related paraphernalia.
As with other states’ Good Samaritan laws, immunity applies only if a person has initiated contact with law enforcement. If they’re already at the scene and you point out someone who seems to be overdosing, that doesn’t qualify. It also doesn’t apply to serious drug-related crimes like trafficking or non-drug-related crimes if evidence is found at the scene of an overdose.
Calls for the law to be less restrictive
There are lawmakers in Indiana who believe the law needs to be broader and have fewer requirements related to the person who’s trying to do the right thing if it’s going to make a dent in the state’s drug overdose epidemic.
As the attitudes in the state are softening in this regard, if you are arrested and charged with drug possession, even if you didn’t fulfill all of the requirements, it may help to demonstrate that you tried to help a friend or relative (or maybe someone you didn’t even know). Maybe under the law you shouldn’t have been charged at all. Whatever the situation, it’s smart to get legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights and present your case.