What is Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law?

David Lindsey, Attorney at Law

Good Samaritan Laws

Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law exists, in part, due to the epidemic of opioid and painkiller use in the state. Every year thousands of people die from drug overdoses and in many cases, those deaths could have been prevented had someone taken immediate action to seek medical attention.

Most overdoses occur with at least one other person present, which means that there is someone there who could contact emergency responders or take the victim to the emergency room, either of which would increase the person’s odds of survival.

Unfortunately, this rarely occurs because the witness to the overdose chooses not to act out of fear of being charged with a crime.

Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law

Colorado is not the only state with a Good Samaritan Law (all 50 states have them), but laws differ slightly from state to state. The goal of each and every law though is to provide immunity from criminal prosecution if you take action to help someone even if you are involved in certain types of crimes.

According to the state’s Good Samaritan Law, if you are seeking medical attention for yourself or someone else, you are protected from being charged with a drug crime.

In Colorado, you receive protection under the Good Samaritan Law if:

  • You report in good faith an emergency drug or alcohol overdose event to a law enforcement officer or a medical provider, or you contact 911
  • You remain at the scene or the hospital until a law enforcement officer or an emergency medical responder arrives
  • You identify yourself to and cooperate with law enforcement, emergency medical responders, or medical providers
  • The offense is linked to the same course of events from which the emergency drug or alcohol overdose occurred

If all of the above factors apply to your situation, you cannot be arrested or prosecuted for unlawful possession, unlawful use, possession of drug paraphernalia, underage possession or consumption, or a variety of other crimes.

Essentially, the law is willing to overlook your crime in an effort to persuade you to do the right thing if a person’s life is at risk.

Good Samaritan Laws Don’t Protect against Prosecution from All Crimes

Keep in mind, there are still drug crimes that are not affected by the state’s Good Samaritan Laws. For instance, you could still face charges for drug trafficking or intent to distribute or DUI, in addition to several other crimes. It’s also possible that evidence can be collected and used against you if you provide information to law enforcement or first responders.

Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law isn’t in place to just let any and all drug criminals go free, especially if someone is committing a serious offense. What it does is reduce the odds someone will be too frightened to help a person in need because they are using drugs or alcohol themselves or nearby when someone else is.

If you are with another person and he or she overdoses, you should contact 911 or seek immediate medical attention. However, you should say as little as possible about your role and what you were doing, and as soon as you know the victim is safe you should contact a lawyer.

In addition to the Good Samaritan Law, Colorado has a variety of public health harm reduction laws. Read more about public health harm reduction laws.

For more information or to learn more about Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law, contact David Lindsey.

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