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When can Hawaii’s overdose prevention immunity law protect you?

On Behalf of | Jan 1, 2023 | Criminal Law

Illegal drugs have been a problem in Hawaii for many years, as anyone who was a fan of the original Hawaii Five-O back in the 1960s and 70s can tell you. However, many drugs – both legal and illegal – have gotten far more dangerous. Even drugs already known to be dangerous – like fentanyl – can be laced with ingredients that make them toxic in even small amounts.

In an effort to minimize drug overdose deaths, Hawaii (like most states) has enacted a “Good Samaritan” law that provides some immunity for arrest for those who seek emergency help for someone who appears to be suffering an overdose – and for the overdose victim themselves. The intention of the law is to encourage people to seek medical help rather than flee the scene or simply not alert and get the police involved.

The law also applies to alcohol overdoses (which can result in fatal cases of alcohol poisoning). It can protect people from charges related to underage alcohol use.

What does the law say?

The law provides immunity for anyone who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for someone who is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose. Individuals cannot face conviction and may not have their property subject to civil forfeiture or otherwise be penalized for:

  • Possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia
  • Providing or purchasing alcohol for a minor
  • Violation of a probation, parole or a restraining order

The person for whom help was sought also is entitled to the same immunity. This immunity only applies if the evidence of one or more of these offenses was gathered only because a person sought emergency medical assistance.

If a person doesn’t qualify for immunity under these conditions, the law allows a court to consider the fact that they sought medical assistance “as a mitigating factor in any controlled substance or alcohol-related criminal prosecution for which immunity is not provided by this section.”

If you are facing drug- or alcohol-related charges that you believe are addressed under this law, it’s critical that you protect your rights. Having experienced legal guidance can help.