FINDING HOPE: Law enforcement deciding how to handle overdose calls after new law goes into effect

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jun 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-06 00:09:11-04

This legislative session, Idaho lawmakers passed the "Good Samaritan" bill into law, aiming to lower the number of deadly overdoses in the Gem State; but now law enforcement agencies need to figure out how to handle those emergency calls after July 1.

The law essentially provides partial immunity to a person who calls 911 when experiencing or witnessing an overdose. They would not be charged or prosecuted for being under the influence - or in possession - of a controlled substance.

The main idea is to encourage more people to call for medical help without having to worry about facing criminal charges.

But, as local law enforcement try to navigate how to handle these calls after the law goes into effect, they're discovering a lot of gray area that's not specifically outlined in the code.

What if multiple people are present? Does everyone get immunity or just the individual who spoke with emergency dispatch? What happens to the drugs? What if they have a warrant out for other crimes?

"How do we know who exactly the caller was, and is it worth the time to investigate that?" Nampa Police Department Sergeant Tim Riha questioned. "Does everybody get a pass on any kind of charges if they're willing to call in the medical emergency? Those are questions we still have to have further discussions on. Obviously, these are things we're thinking about since the law goes into effect in July."

The department plans to discuss the law with other entities over the next few weeks, like the prosecutor's office and local judges.

Since similar laws already exist in 41 states, they may reach out to see how other departments are currently handling overdose situations.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel on how this is being handled, so it would be very reasonable for us to reach out to some other agencies that are dealing with this already, and see how they implemented it," Sgt. Riha said.