The Good Samaritan Law

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Traditions in college seem like a rite of passage. Partying, pregaming and clubbing on the weekends are what typical college life consists of. However, accidents involving overdosing, blacking out and law enforcement can occur. There is a fear of calling 911 that consumes many college students. No one wants to get in trouble with the law.

There is a solution to that dilemma: a Colorado law that protects a person from legal consequences. It’s called the Good Samaritan Law. The law is designed to protect people whether they are the 911 caller, or the person being called for when consuming harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol.

Anyone, including those who are underage, who calls under this law is immune from any criminal prosecution for an offense that they report out of good faith. The immunity also applies to the people who remain at the scene of the event until law enforcement arrives and extends to the person who suffered during the emergency.

This law was established in Colorado on April 3, 2015. It doesn’t, however, protect people who are drug trafficking, intending to distribute, a DUI and several other crimes.

UNC Police Commander of the Operations Division Patrick Gallagher encourages the community to become knowledgeable about the law.

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“The most important thing to know is that it exists,” he said. “We just want to get the word out that even though we’re law enforcement, our priority is the safety of everyone. If someone finds themselves in a situation where they’re experiencing an overdose, our job in that moment is to get them the help that they need. Everything else is secondary to that.”

Gallagher also understands the fear college students have when deciding whether to call for help. He wants students to understand that the police are there to help, not to punish.

“It’s incredibly important because we want to get help to the person who is suffering from the overdose,” Gallagher said. “We don’t want any delay or the possibility of someone not calling for fear of that criminal prosecution. It’s not in the best interest of anybody in our community.”

Often when distressing situations arise, it’s common for people to flee the scene or step back when law enforcement arrives because of stress or outright panic.

Gallagher wants the community to understand that supplying the most information possible to the 911 operator is essential to help someone in need.

“Get that 911 call as soon as possible and do whatever the person on the other end of the phone tells you,” he said. “Give them the best information you can about where you are, what the person put in their body, what drugs, alcohol [and] how much. Get them as much information so that they can get the first responders there as quick as possible.”

UNC Community Engagement Officer Bobby Gallegos stresses the importance of staying at the scene and speaking with law enforcement.

“Always stay on scene if you called for a friend or yourself.” he said. “Make sure you stay on scene, that way when we get there, we’ll have somebody to talk to. That way we can get important information that maybe you have. If you were a bystander, you should stay on scene as well so that you can provide a witness statement on what happened. You will not get in trouble.”

For college students, issues on campus are quite common. Underaged drinking and drug usage are a common factor in everyday life on campus. Even legally drinking and consuming drugs can cause unforeseen issues.

Gabby Reese, a junior studying exercise science, wants there to be more information spread about this law and offered an idea.

“I think a way to promote this law better on campus would be for it to come from the professors either during syllabus week or finals week,” she said. “This is because we go over all the mental health resources, but we don’t go over what will actually protect us in dangerous situations. I think adding the law to the syllabus would be beneficial so that we all know about it and have it on hand. If the professors at the school can encourage the ‘see it, say something’, then they should help promote something that will protect people from any charges or an illegal record.”

Reese has gone to her own fair share of parties, witnessing drinking, drug use and out-of-hand situations where law enforcement had to be involved.

“It’s important to have this law because it encourages people to call for help,” she said, “I agree with the law because if you’re calling for help under this law, you know that you are protected while trying to help someone else.”

When calling 911, clearly state to the operator that you are calling under the Colorado Good Samaritan Law. This will ensure that you and those you are helping will be immune from legal prosecution.

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