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Law Enforcement

More than one fatal overdose occurs in WA every day. More Washingtonians die every year from overdoses than from car crashes. Most drug overdoses involve a prescription medication used with other drugs or alcohol. Most of these deaths can be prevented with fast medical help.

    • If you think you're witnessing a drug overdose and seek medical help, you will receive immunity from criminal charges of drug possession. The overdose victim you're helping is protected, too. Call 911.

    • The law also expands access to Narcan™  (generic name naloxone), an opioid antagonist that reverses the effect of overdose from opioids.

Under the Washington state 911 Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Law, immunity does not extend to outstanding warrants, probation or parole violations, drug manufacture or delivery, controlled substances homicide, or crimes other than drug possession.

  WATCH: Seattle Police training video about Washington's 911 Good
Samaritan Law and naloxone.

Q. Does the law apply if the person dies from the overdose? 

A. As long as you seek medical help in good faith, you still receive immunity from charges that you were in possession of drugs.  However, if you are the person who gave the victim the drugs that caused the overdose, you can be charged with controlled substances homicide.  In that case, if you are charged and found guilty, the fact that you sought medical help can be used by the judge as a basis for giving you a sentence that is shorter than the standard range that would otherwise apply.

Q. The 911 law refers to “if you seek  medical help” – does that apply only to calling 911, or will immunity apply if I take the overdose victim to an Emergency Room?

A. The immunity applies to any good faith effort to seek medical help, whether that is calling 911, taking the overdose victim to an Emergency Room, or running to get your neighbor who is a doctor.  Remember, though, that the key to saving a life from overdose is to get professional medical help the fastest way possible.

Q. Does this apply to substances that are "controlled" specifically for youth, such as alcohol?  i.e., will a minor be cited for possession if they call 911 due to a likely alcohol overdose at a party?

A. The 911 Good Samaritan law did not originally apply to minors in possession of alcohol, however it was amended in May 2013 via House Bill 1404 to extend immunity from possession charges to those seeking medical assistance for someone experiencing alcohol poisoning, and to the victims of alcohol poisoning themselves.

In other words, even if you are under the age of 21, you will not be charged with possession of alcohol as a minor if you call 911 to help someone suffering from alcohol poisoning or if you are suffering from alcohol poisoning yourself.

Many colleges and universities also have medical amnesty policies in place regarding underage drinking.

More FAQs from "Take as Directed"
(Washington Dept. of Health)

Materials to Download about Washington state's 911 Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Law

This information made available by the UW Alcohol & Drug Abuse Instititute

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