What you should know about the Jessica Sosa Act and drug offenses
If someone calls 911 to get help for someone they’re with who appears to be suffering overdose, is it fair that they can be arrested for their own possession of a small amount of drugs when police and first responders show up? Many states across the country have enacted “Good Samaritan” laws that offer some criminal immunity for people who do the right thing and for the overdose victims themselves.
Texas enacted its law, the Jessica Sosa Act, just last year. The goal of this and similar laws is to get people to seek medical help for overdoses without fear that doing so will land them in jail. Fatal overdoses can often be prevented if the victim gets prompt help. It’s estimated that these laws can reduce overdose deaths by some 15%.
What is required to receive immunity under the law?
The law states that those who seek help for an overdose won’t be charged for possessing “small amounts” of illegal drugs as long as:
- They are the first to call 911.
- They stay at the scene until medical help arrives.
- They cooperate with law enforcement and first responders.
- They don’t have a serious criminal conviction on their record
- They haven’t made a similar call in the last 18 month.
There are some other restrictions. For example, the law doesn’t apply if someone reports an overdose when police are already on the scene making an arrest. It also doesn’t apply to other alleged offenses, either at the same scene or elsewhere.
If you or your child has been charged with a drug-related offense, you believe they qualify for immunity under this law, seek legal guidance. An overdose scene can be chaotic, and the law is still relatively new. It’s not always clear to law enforcement who has done what. Even if the law doesn’t apply to your case, actions taken to save a life can still be relevant to how the case is handled.