Criminal Law

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act

By Joseph Neuberger

According to the Government of Canada, the increasing number of overdoses and deaths caused by opioids has become a national public health crisis. In an effort to protect Canadians and encourage people to prioritize saving a life, an act providing legal protection to witnesses during a crisis situation became law in May 2017.

What protection does the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act afford?

If you or someone that you are with is experiencing an overdose, getting help could make the difference between life and death. With that being said, the fear of facing serious consequences as a result of engaging in illegal activities could be enough to prevent a person from making the right call.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act recognizes and addresses this problem by providing a certain degree of legal protection to individuals implicated in an overdose situation. Regardless of whether a person remains at the scene, leaves before help arrives, or is simply in the vicinity of where the overdose has taken place, the act can ensure protection from charges of possession and breaches of conditions regarding simple possession of controlled substances.

What are the limits to the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act?

While the act affords individuals who seek help for an overdose protection from some charges and breaches of conditions, it does not provide complete immunity against serious offences such as:

  • Production of controlled substances
  • Trafficking of controlled substances
  • Outstanding warrants
  • Breaches of court conditions unrelated to simple drug possession
  • Other crimes and offences not included in the act

While the limitations of the act may seem straightforward, in an emergency situation it can be hard to be certain as to how protected you may be. In some cases, getting life-saving help could result in a criminal charge, even though you may have thought you were protected under the act. In situations like this, contacting a criminal lawyer is critical. Given the implications of a drug charge, having the right kind of legal support is essential.

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