Overdose victims and responders have legal protections in Washington State.
In WA State, anyone trying to help in a medical emergency is generally protected from civil liabilities by RCW 4.24.300. WA State’s 911 Good Samaritan Overdose Law RCW 69.50.315 gives additional, specific protections against drug possession charges:
- If you seek medical assistance in a drug-related overdose, you cannot be prosecuted for drug possession.
- The overdose victim is also protected from drug possession charges.
- Anyone in WA State who might have or witness an opioid overdose is allowed to carry and administer naloxone. (RCW 69.41.095)
Frequently Asked Questions
No. The law does not protect you from outstanding warrants, probation or parole violations, drug manufacture or delivery, controlled substances homicide, or crimes other than drug possession.
The immunity applies to any good faith effort to seek medical help such as calling 911, taking the overdose victim to an emergency room, or running to get a neighbor who is a nurse.
As long as you seek medical help in good faith, you still receive immunity from drug possession charges. However, if you are the person who gave the victim the drugs that caused the overdose, you can be charged with controlled substances homicide. If you are found guilty, however, the judge may consider your efforts to help when deciding the length of your sentence.
The 911 Good Samaritan Overdose law was amended in 2013 to also apply to alcohol poisoning. Even if you are under the age of 21, you cannot be charged with possession of alcohol as a minor if you call 911 to help someone suffering from alcohol poisoning. The victim of alcohol poisoning is also protected.
WA State Good Samaritan Materials
Researchers at the University of Washington evaluated the 911 Good Samaritan Overdose Law over its first year in effect in Seattle to look at the law’s legal intent, implementation, and outcomes. This was the first evaluation of this type of law in the United States. Researchers examined changes in opioid overdose rates (fatal and non-fatal); volume and severity of 911 overdose calls; and naloxone administration by lay persons and medical professionals.
The following articles discuss the law’s implementation and the evaluation results:
- Washington’s 911 Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Law: Initial Evaluation Results. Banta-Green CJ, Kuszler PC, Coffin PO, Schoeppe JA. University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, 2011.
- Police officers’ and paramedics’ experiences with overdose and their knowledge and opinions of Washington State’s Drug Overdose-Naloxone-Good Samaritan Law. Banta-Green CJ, Beletsky L, Schoeppe JA, Coffin PO, Kuszler PC. Journal of Urban Health, 2013.
- Good Samaritan Overdose Response Laws: Lessons Learned from Washington State. Banta-Green CJ. Office of National Drug Control Policy, The White House, 2013.
- Drug Overdoses in Washington: Police Officers’ Experiences and the 2010 Good Samaritan Overdose Law. Banta-Green CJ, NW HIDTA Intelligence Bulletin, 2013
- Steps for Implementing an Overdose Good Samaritan Law: The Example of Seattle, Washington. Banta-Green CJ. 2013
Good Samaritan Laws in Other States
- Public Law Atlas: interactive national map of Good Samaritan Laws
- Network for Public Health Law: Legal Interventions to Reduce Overdose Mortality: Naloxone Access and Overdose Good Samaritan Laws.