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When could you be immune from drug charges under New Jersey law?

On Behalf of | Mar 2, 2023 | Drug Crimes

When does the law say that you won’t be arrested, charged or prosecuted for possession of illegal drugs and some other relatively minor drug-related charges? In New Jersey, as in a number of other states, a person typically won’t face legal consequences if their drugs or drug use was discovered because they called 911 or sought emergency medical help in some other way for someone who appeared to be suffering an overdose. That immunity also applies to the overdose victim.

These “Good Samaritan” laws started popping up across the U.S. as lawmakers and public health professionals sought a way to lessen the growing epidemic of fatal overdoses. Too often, they discovered that fatal overdose victims had been abandoned by friends and others who fled the scene out of fear of arrest for their own drug use if emergency responders showed up.

What does New Jersey law say?

Each state’s Good Samaritan drug overdose immunity law is somewhat different. New Jersey’s law applies to anyone who seeks medical help “in good faith” and to the person for whom they’re seeking help. That means they don’t have to worry about causing a friend’s arrest.

The offenses the immunity applies to are:

  • Possession of illegal drugs
  • Being under the influence of illegal drugs
  • Obtaining/attempting to obtain illegal drugs
  • Possessing/using drug paraphernalia

In addition to immunity from being charged with a crime, they can get immunity from having their probation or parole revoked if they violated the conditions.

When doesn’t this law apply?

It doesn’t apply if the police show up and find evidence of something like a drug trafficking operation. It also doesn’t apply if they find evidence of non-drug-related crimes like theft, violent crimes and illegal weapons. Of course, depending on the offense, a person’s actions to try to save someone else may be taken into consideration in charging and sentencing. 

An overdose scene can be chaotic once the police arrive. It’s possible for someone to be wrongfully arrested, and the person being arrested may not know enough about the law to explain that they’re entitled to immunity. Whatever the situation, if you’ve been arrested in one of these situations, it’s important to seek experienced legal guidance to protect your rights.