At Rose Legal Services in St. Louis, MO, we recently won a felony case in St. Charles County Circuit Court based on Missouri’s new Good Samaritan Law. Our client was a young man in his 20s who has struggled with addiction for years, seeking treatment and relapsing several times. He had no criminal record, yet he was facing up to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections, as well as all of the social and economic consequences of being branded a convicted felon for life.
The case began when our client was checking into a local inpatient drug treatment facility, and he visited the public restroom in the admissions area for one last “hit” before being admitted. A nurse discovered him, administered Narcan, and since the facility does not have an emergency room, directed another staff person to call 911 for medical assistance. An ambulance and police officers arrived, and the ambulance took our client to the hospital for treatment of a possible drug overdose. But the St. Charles County Police Department decided it would be appropriate to seek charges for Possession of a Controlled Substance, a Class D Felony, based on the heroin and syringes they recovered at the scene. Several employees of the drug treatment center objected, pointing out that our client had responsibly come to the center voluntarily to seek help for his problem. Furthermore, in the absence of the staffing, medical equipment, and facilities necessary to properly treat a person experiencing a possible drug overdose, the employees at the treatment center had no choice but to call 911 for medical assistance.
Fortunately, Missouri recently joined 38 other states in enacting a Good Samaritan Law. Missouri’s Good Samaritan Law prohibits the arrest or prosecution of anyone who seeks medical assistance for an alcohol or drug overdose or other medical emergency, and it also prohibits the arrest and prosecution of the person experiencing the alcohol or drug overdose or other medical emergency. More than 1,000 people die in Missouri every year from overdoses, yet overdoses are very treatable if medical care is obtained quickly. Unfortunately, when a person overdoses, their friends are often reluctant to call for help because they fear the police will show up and arrest everyone, including the caller and the person who needs medical assistance.
As our case in St. Charles County shows, those concerns are well founded. Missouri’s Good Samaritan Law became effective in August 2017, yet the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office prosecuted this case from October 2017 to July 2019 and dismissed it only after we had fully prepared the case for trial. Of course, even before the Good Samaritan Law, prosecutors could have exercised “prosecutorial discretion” and voluntarily elected not to prosecute cases arising out of an overdose and call for medical assistance. Unfortunately, such restraint was rare, and at Rose Legal Services, we personally represented clients in St. Charles County Circuit Court, Jefferson County Circuit Court, and many municipal courts who were prosecuted in circumstances that would have been covered by Missouri’s Good Samaritan Law, if it had been in effect at the time.
If you have been arrested or charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance – especially if the circumstances involve a call for medical assistance – call the experienced the experienced Missouri drug lawyers at Rose Legal Services today. We offer an initial consultation, either by telephone or in person, at no charge and without obligation. St. Louis criminal defense attorney W. Scott Rose had handled many drug cases and obtained dismissals in circumstances covered by Missouri’s new Good Samaritan Law. Call us today at (314) 462-0200 to schedule your free 30 minute consultation.