Will I Be Arrested if I Report an Overdose in SC? Does SC Have a Good Samaritan Law?

Will I be arrested if I report an overdose in SC? If you are with a person who has just overdosed on narcotics or any other drug, stop reading right now and call 911…

Okay. Will you go to jail?

I can’t say you will or you won’t, but one thing is for certain – that person’s life is worth going to jail for.

South Carolina has a “good Samaritan law” that provides limited immunity from arrest and prosecution if you report an overdose. That doesn’t mean you won’t be arrested – police may find a reason to charge you with a crime, especially if the person dies as a result of the overdose.

The person’s family may be “out for blood,” demanding the prosecution of every person involved in their loved one’s death. If you do get charged as a result of your friend’s overdose, there are Charleston criminal defense lawyers who can help you to defend against the charges.

If you are arrested, you are more likely to get the charges dismissed, get them referred to a pretrial diversion program, or win your case at trial if you did the right thing and acted quickly to save your friend’s life.

Read on to find out when you are given statutory immunity for reporting an overdose, what the potential charges could be, and what potential defenses you may have to those charges.

Will I be Arrested if I Report an Overdose in SC?

Here’s the dilemma: if someone has just overdosed, whether it is an overdose on heroin, some other drug, or alcohol poisoning, the people who are with them are subject to arrest and prosecution for a range of crimes like:

  • Assault and battery (if they allege you helped the person shoot up the fatal dose);
  • Drug possession;
  • Drug distribution;
  • Manslaughter; or
  • Any other crime that police thought they could pin on you.


When a person dies, their family, friends, police, and prosecutors look for someone to blame.

When a person dies from an overdose, police and prosecutors feel like they must act to prevent it from happening again – it may attract negative media attention, and if the community feels like they are not doing their job they may not have a job for long…

The unintended consequence?

Many people will not call and report an overdose if they think they will be arrested.

The threat of arrest and prosecution results in overdose victims being dumped on the sidewalk in front of an emergency room or, even worse, left to die in an alley, forest, or abandoned building somewhere.

Recognizing this dilemma, many states have now passed “good Samaritan laws” that provide immunity from arrest and prosecution for someone who reports an overdose – theoretically taking away the fear of arrest, encouraging people to report an overdose, and saving lives.

What Does SC’s Good Samaritan Law Say?

Beginning at SC Code Section 44-53-1910, SC law provides for limited immunity when a person calls and reports an overdose.

What does that mean?

When do You Get Immunity for Reporting an Overdose in SC?

A person who reports an overdose receives immunity from certain crimes if:

  • The evidence of the crime was obtained as a result of the report;
  • They acted in good faith, believing that they are the first person to call authorities;
  • They provide their real name either to 911 or to law enforcement when they arrive; and
  • They did not make the report during the execution of a search warrant, arrest warrant, or other lawful search.

What Crimes are Covered by SC’s Good Samaritan Law?

The limited immunity covers prosecution for:

  • Dispensing or delivering a controlled substance when it was delivered to the overdose victim;
  • Possession of a controlled substance;
  • Possession of paraphernalia;
  • Sale or delivery of paraphernalia when it was delivered to the overdose victim;
  • Purchasing, consuming, or possessing alcoholic beverages;
  • Transferring beer or wine to a person younger than 21; or
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

What Crimes are Not Covered by SC’s Good Samaritan Law?

Any crimes not listed above are not covered by the law. This could include:

  • Trafficking charges (based on the weight of any drugs that law enforcement finds);
  • Sale or delivery of drugs or paraphernalia to any person other than the overdose victim; or
  • Any other crime not listed above.

SC Code Section 44-53-1950 makes it clear that the limited immunity does not extend to any potential crimes arising from the overdose other than the specific crimes that are listed in Section 1910:

This article does not prohibit a person from being arrested, charged, or prosecuted, or from having his supervision status modified or revoked, based on an offense other than an offense listed in Section 44-53-1920(B), whether or not the offense arises from the same circumstances for which the person sought medical assistance.

Can the Overdose Victim be Prosecuted?

SC Code Section 44-53-1930 provides immunity for the overdose victim as well, but only for the offenses listed in Section 1910:

A person who experiences a drug or alcohol-related overdose and is in need of medical assistance may not be prosecuted for any of the offenses listed in Section 44-53-1920 if the evidence for prosecution was obtained as a result of the drug or alcohol-related overdose and need for medical assistance.

What if I am Arrested and Prosecuted?

If you are charged with an offense that is listed in Section 1910, we should be able to get the case dismissed by either the prosecutor or the court.

If you are charged with another drug-related offense because you called for help, you may have a range of available defense just as in any other drug case.

Furthermore, SC Code Section 44-53-1940 states that your decision to call for help may be considered as a mitigating factor by the court – which could make a difference in the prosecutor’s charging decisions (whether they reduce the charge) and the sentence that you receive:

The court may consider a person’s decision to seek medical assistance pursuant to Section 44-53-1920(A) or 44-53-1930 as a mitigating factor in a criminal prosecution or sentencing for a drug or alcohol-related offense that is not an offense listed in Section 44-53-1920(B).

SC Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC

Will I be arrested if I report an overdose in SC? Maybe. But, if you are with a person who has overdosed on drugs, call for help immediately – their life is worth the risk of arrest.

If you are charged with a crime, we can help. Charleston, SC criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone regularly handles drug-related cases in the Charleston, Georgetown, and Myrtle Beach areas of SC.

Call now at (843) 808-2100 or get in touch through our website to talk with a SC drug crimes defense attorney today.