In March 2022, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, handed down a decision in State v. Gill that significantly limited the availability of the Good Samaritan defense in drug possession cases for those who choose to render aid in emergency situations. The Good Samaritan defense was codified into law in 2017 with the passage of Senate Bill 501 and provides some protection from criminal prosecution for possession of drugs for those who voluntarily provide aid in good faith. With this decision, however, the Court has now made it clear that waiting even a short period of time to render aid can result in the loss of this defense.
This is a troubling development for many Missourians who may find themselves in the position of having to choose between helping someone in need and potentially facing drug possession criminal charges.
What is Missouri’s Good Samaritan Law?
Missouri’s 911 Good Samaritan Law (RSMO 195.205) was passed with the intent to save lives by encouraging people to seek medical help in the event of an overdose. Under this law, anyone who actively seeks emergency medical assistance in the event of an overdose or other medical emergency – as well as the individual experiencing the medical emergency – is protected from minor drug and alcohol violations. The Good Samaritan Law was put in place to encourage people to seek medical help in emergency situations without fear of being charged with a crime.
Unfortunately, the recent decision in State v. Gill has put a significant dent in the effectiveness of this law.
What is the Impact of the State v. Gill decision?
In the case of State v. Gill, the defendant, Paul Gill, was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance after officers discovered methamphetamine in his work bag after a search of his car. This was prompted after Gill had called 911 to report the death of his friend in a Missouri hotel room.
Gill sought dismissal of the charges under the Good Samaritan Law, which was granted by the circuit court. The State appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision.
The Court of Appeals held that Gill did not qualify for the Good Samaritan defense because he had not called 911 immediately after finding his friend unresponsive. The Court reasoned that Gill had waited too long to call for help, that his request for assistance was not made in good faith, and therefore he could not avail himself of the Good Samaritan defense.
This decision is troubling because it effectively discourages people from seeking medical assistance in emergency situations. The Good Samaritan Law was passed with the intention of encouraging people to seek help in these situations, but this decision makes it clear that even a short delay in calling for help can result in criminal charges for possession of drugs.
How the Opinion Summary of the MO Court of Appeals, Eastern District Limits the Application of Defense
As a result of this decision, there are some far-reaching implications for those who may find themselves in the position of having to render aid in an emergency situation. Most disturbingly is the fact that the decision wrongly limits the application of the Good Samaritan defense.
The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District’s decision creates a very high standard for those who wish to avail themselves of the Good Samaritan defense. To qualify for the defense, it is now clear that individuals must act immediately and without delay in order to render aid. This is a very difficult standard to meet, and one that will undoubtedly deter many people from coming to the aid of those in need. The decision is effectively antithetical to the entire purpose of the Good Samaritan Law, which was intended to encourage people to render aid in emergency situations, not deter them.
The Court’s decision highlights the importance of working with an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have found yourself in the position of having to render aid in an emergency. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex legal landscape and ensure that you are taking all the necessary steps to protect your rights. With the stakes so high, it is crucial that you have an advocate on your side who can help you protect your rights and interests.
Contact the Law Office of Chris Miller if You Have Been Charged with a Crime
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime for possession of drugs, it is important to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Chris Miller have extensive experience handling all types of criminal cases, including those involving the Good Samaritan defense. The sooner you consult with an attorney, the better chance you have of protecting your rights and achieving a favorable outcome in your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.