As the number of fatal drug overdoses has increased alarmingly in recent years, most states have enacted laws that provide some immunity from arrest and prosecution for anyone who calls 911 or otherwise seeks emergency medical help for someone they believe is suffering an overdose. Many states extend that immunity to the person who’s overdosing.
The goal is to encourage people to get help and remain at the scene rather than flee out of fear of arrest. Sadly, too many people have died – and continue to – because their friends or others they were with left them or even because they were afraid to call for help for themselves.
What does New Mexico law say?
New Mexico’s limited immunity law states that anyone who “in good faith, seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing an alcohol- or drug-related overdose shall not be arrested, charged, prosecuted or otherwise penalized” for possession of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia if law enforcement discovered it only because they were called to the scene by that person. They also won’t be penalized for violating a condition of parole, probation or a restraining order if that violation was discovered because they sought help.
The same immunity applies to the person experiencing the overdose whether someone else sought help for them or they sought help for themselves.
The term “seeking medical assistance” can include calling 911 or any other type of emergency dispatch center. It also includes remaining with the person who appears to be overdosing until help arrives.
How else can this law help you?
It’s important to note that this law doesn’t apply to serious drug-related offenses like drug trafficking or non-drug-related criminal activity that might be discovered by law enforcement at the scene. However, the law does state, “The act of seeking medical assistance for someone who is experiencing an alcohol- or drug-related overdose may be used as a mitigating factor in a criminal prosecution pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act for which immunity is not provided pursuant to this section.”
If you were arrested and charged with a drug-related crime for which you believe you should have received immunity under the law or if you believe your actions should be considered if you were arrested for another crime, having legal guidance can help you protect your rights and present your case.