Authorities say a law intended to protect public health prevents them from pressing all of the criminal charges they once could.
Three people taken into custody on Tuesday at a home on Hess Place in Lancaster after a woman overdosed on drugs cannot be charged with drug crimes because they were calling first responders to get help for their friend. Instead, the three can only be charged with endangering the welfare of a child because a 1-year-old was inside the home, which was in deplorable condition.
“There were needles and other drug paraphernalia left in plain view and were within easy reach of the child,” said Lancaster Police Capt. William Karn.
Despite the abundance of drugs, because these three people called 911, they cannot be charged.
Capt. Karn explained, “It tells us not to charge someone in that circumstance, where normally if we found someone to be in possession of those substances we would arrest them for that.”
It’s called the “Good Samaritan Law” and was passed by the State Legislature back in 2011. News 4 Legal Analyst Terry Connors says it’s all about getting help for the victim.
“If you make that 911 call and you try to save that person’s life and subsequently police come on the scene and they see drug paraphernalia or even drugs, contraband on the scene, you cannot be prosecuted for that. You have complete immunity under our penal law,” Connors said.
The law weighs the benefit of drug prosecutions against saving someone’s life, even though there may be a clear problem.
Capt. Karen said, “It’s somewhat discouraging but on the other side, some of these people may not have called us for assistance knowing they would have the chance of getting arrested. So it may save some lives, which yesterday it probably did.”
The 1-year-old child taken from the home is now in the care of Child Protective Services, and the home on Hess Place has been condemned.
Though the three people who called 911 to save their friend aren’t facing drug charges, the woman who overdosed is. Police say after she was released from the hospital on Tuesday, she returned to the condemned house and was found with a used needle. She was arrested and is now locked up on drug-related charges.