Opioid overdoses pose a considerable problem throughout Canada. In fact, every part of the country has suffered from what is now being called an epidemic. There were nearly 3,000 deaths apparently related to opioids throughout Canada in 2016.
From January 2017 through September 2017, close to 3,000 more opioid-related deaths occurred. While final figures for 2017 are not available yet, it seems almost certain that 2017 will surpass 2016 for opioid-related deaths.
Alberta is no different. Opioid overdose deaths in 2017 so far in Alberta rose 40 percent compared to 2016. From January until the end of September, there were 482 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017, compared to 346 deaths in the same period in 2016.
Many of the people who are at the scene of drug overdoses are themselves drug abusers, and thus likely to also be in some way violating Canada's drug laws—and unlikely to summon the authorities. These violations could happen from being under the influence, in possession of drugs, or another related reason. The legislature decided to shield these people from prosecution to encourage them to call emergency services when they witness a drug overdose. Passed in May 2017, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act provides a certain amount of protection from prosecution for people who contact 911 seeking help when a drug overdose happens in their presence. The law protects individuals from:
Charges for possession of a controlled substance under certain sections of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Breach of conditions regarding simple drug possession of controlled substances charges for people who are in pre-trial release, under probation orders or conditional sentences, or who are on parole.
The statute extends protections to anyone who calls emergency services in the event of a drug overdose, including the person who is subject to the overdose. The act’s protection also extends to anyone seeking assistance even if they leave the scene of the overdose before help arrives, as well as anyone who is at the scene of the overdose when emergency assistance arrives.
The Good Samaritan Act Does Not Provide Universal Immunity
The Good Samaritan Act is not a universal pardon, however. The act does not provide immunity for all kinds of charges, such as:
- Outstanding warrants
- Production and trafficking of controlled substances
- Any other crimes not specified in the act
Because the law is new, and many people may not yet trust the immunity it offers. The fact that the law does not extend to all offences also likely reduces the reporting of overdoses, as drug users often are guilty of more crimes than drug use or possession. Nonetheless, the law has the potential to reduce overdose deaths if witnesses recognize it as something that will protect them if they call 911—and perhaps save an overdose victim’s life.
If You May Qualify for Immunity Under the Good Samaritan Act, Contact the Lawyers of Bourdon Defence
If you reported a drug overdose and believe you may qualify for immunity from prosecution under the Good Samaritan Act, you should seek legal assistance to ensure that your rights are protected. The lawyers of Bourdon Defence can help. Contact us today at (403) 474-4143