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When can Texans get immunity from drug charges?

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Did you know that Texas has a law that can protect someone from relatively minor drug possession charges if police discover the alleged offense only because they called 911 or sought emergency help in some other way for someone they believed to be suffering an overdose?

The law, which was enacted just a few years ago, is one of the “Good Samaritan” drug overdose immunity laws across the country that lawmakers and public health officials hope will lessen the number of fatal overdoses that have reached a crisis point. It can’t be known for certain how many deaths could be prevented if someone with the victim sought help rather than leaving the scene out of fear of arrest.

What does the law say? 

Texas law provides immunity from prosecution for “possession of small amounts of controlled substances, marihuana, dangerous drugs, or abusable volatile chemicals, or possession of drug paraphernalia.” 

To qualify for this immunity, a person must be the first one to get help for the overdose victim, stay at the scene and cooperate with police and other first responders. It doesn’t apply if police were already on the scene conducting a search or making an arrest.

When doesn’t the law apply?

It’s important to note that the law doesn’t apply to anyone who has a felony conviction on their record and/or has gotten help for an overdose any time within the past 18 months. It also doesn’t apply to serious drug offenses like trafficking or to non-drug-related offenses if evidence of these is discovered by police when they arrive after an emergency call.

There’s been criticism by some lawmakers and others in the state that there are too many immunity exceptions — especially compared with Good Samaritan laws in other states. Many say that these exceptions are more likely to apply to people who live in Black and Latino areas.

Certainly, it’s always best to do what’s necessary to save a life. Even if a person doesn’t qualify for immunity from prosecution under the law, the fact that an alleged offense was discovered only because they sought help for someone can be presented as a consideration when prosecutors are determining whether and with what to charge someone with. 

Don’t try to deal with this situation on your own. It’s crucial to protect your rights and make the best possible case. Getting experienced legal guidance can help.