good samaritan law

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin

Rhode Island’s Attorney General has issued guidance for law enforcement after the expiration of the Good Samaritan law. The law was created to protect people from drug charges if they call 911 about a drug overdose; it expired July 1st after lawmakers took no action to extend it before adjourning for the summer.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

A law meant to encourage people to call 911 when someone overdoses will expire July 1st. An effort to extend the Good Samaritan law failed to pass the General Assembly. Now, a chorus of disapproval is rising among public health advocates.

State officials wanted a shelf date on Rhode Island’s Good Samaritan law in case it had a negative impact on law enforcement. The state attorney general says the law has barred officers from charging people with drug crimes in some cases. But National Network for Public Health Law spokesman Corey Davis said repealing the law could cost lives.

Police departments from across Rhode Island are reporting on the impact of the state’s relatively new Good Samaritan Law. The law shields from prosecution anyone seeking medical assistance for someone who’s experiencing a drug overdose, with exceptions for crimes involving manufacturing and distributing drugs.

The Good Samaritan law – also known as Good Sam - took effect in June 2012. And the idea was to encourage more people to call 911 for a friend who’s overdosing. Before the law, the caller could be arrested on drug possession or other charges.