Report Overdoses without Prosecution: Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law

In 2017, the number of drug overdose deaths in Colorado was the highest it has ever been – 959 people lost their lives to different controlled substances. Overdoses happen for many reasons, but in order to survive almost everyone needs the same thing – serious medical attention.

Unfortunately, the laws against drug use and the heavy punishments for drug crimes prevent many people from reaching out when they notice the signs of an overdose. In many cases, they don’t want to risk the chance of being put behind bars.

Luckily, Colorado understands this fear and has addressed it with our 911 Good Samaritan Law. State legislators hope that this law can help to decrease the state’s high rates of overdoses.

What Is Colorado’s 911 Good Samaritan Law?

Essentially, the law states that if you seek emergency medical attention because you believe that you or someone you know is overdosing, you won’t face criminal prosecution.

The law applies to:

  • The person who is reporting the overdose
  • People who remain on the scene until the medical services or law enforcement officers arrive
  • People who remain at the medical facility until help arrives

The law also states that you are immune as long as you identify yourself to emergency services and cooperate with professionals. If you lie or get aggressive with the people who are trying to help, you may not qualify for the Good Samaritan Law.

So, if you notice that a friend is showing signs of an overdose, you can call 911 or law enforcement officials, or take the friend to the appropriate medical facilities without the fear that you or your friend will be charged with a crime.

The Good Samaritan Law exempts you from the following charges:

  • Unlawful possession of a controlled substance
  • Unlawful use of a controlled substance
  • Open public display, or possession, of marijuana
  • Use or possession of synthetic cannabinoids or salvia divinorum
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Illegal possession or consumption of ethyl alcohol or marijuana by an underage person or illegal possession of marijuana paraphernalia by an underage person

However, it is important to know that the law does have limitations. Specifically, it does not exempt you from sale or trafficking charges. It also only exempts you from an arrest immediately after reaching out to emergency services. You cannot claim that you qualify for the Good Samaritan Law if you are arrested a week after reporting an overdose to law enforcement or 911.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you are on the scene when someone is overdosing, do not be afraid to call 911! Do not put your fears of criminal prosecution over the health and safety of others. Even if you were engaging in the use of controlled substances, you will not get charged with possession or use.

Colorado Good Samaritan Law

If you have been charged with possession even though you sought out medical attention before your arrest, talk to a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Again, the Good Samaritan Law does not exempt you from future charges if you reached out in the past, but if you can provide proof that shortly before your arrest, you tried to reach out to emergency services, you may see your case dismissed.

Be safe this year. Colorado does not want to see another record-breaking year for overdoses. Do not be afraid to reach out to emergency services. Know the laws that can help you and the people around you stay as safe as possible.


About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.