Monday, September 28, 2020

CAN I BE ARRESTED WHEN GETTING HELP FOR A DRUG OVERDOSE?

With some exceptions, the answer is generally no.

Illinois law grants limited immunity from prosecution for drugs found where the evidence against you was discovered because you sought emergency help in good faith, and the amount of the substance was within certain limits (See 720 ILCS 570/414 for limits.) Police may not arrest you based on evidence obtained as a direct result of getting help. Therefore, if someone is having an overdose, you generally need not fear calling 911.

In People v. Markham, the defendant’s companion called 911 when defendant was having an overdose. Before leaving for the hospital, defendant asked for his wallet and house keys. A rolled up dollar bill containing heroin was sticking out of his wallet. Because the heroin was found as a result of the emergency help, the court said the defendant was immune from prosecution: “We hold that the Act provides broad and unconditional protection from the prying eyes of law enforcement present at the scene of an overdose, regardless of whether that location is a personal residence, a business, a vehicle, and so on.”

The police may still search or arrest you if they have a reasonable suspicion based on information that they obtained independently or prior to your call. For example, the state could prosecute a woman that officers found sleeping in a car as she had not called for help and the officers noticed drug paraphernalia before they realized she was suffering from an overdose.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Were you seeking emergency help? Do the police have a separate basis from the emergency for charging you with a crime? If not, an attorney may be able to petition the court to suppress the evidence stemming from your emergency call.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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