Too many people in Texas don’t know about something called the Jessica Sosa Act. Knowing about it can save lives – and save people from facing drug charges.
The law, which was enacted just two years ago, is one of several “Good Samaritan” laws across the country that provide immunity from relatively minor drug-related charges if the offense was discovered by law enforcement only because someone sought help for an overdose victim. These laws are intended to help prevent needless overdose fatalities.
Every state’s law is somewhat different. That’s why it’s important to understand some of the details of the Texas law, including its limitations.
What does the law say?
The law provides immunity for offenses related to “possession of small amounts of controlled substances, marihuana, dangerous drugs, or abusable volatile chemicals, or possession of drug paraphernalia” for the person who calls 911 or otherwise seeks emergency help for someone who appears to be suffering an overdose and for the overdose victim.
To qualify for this immunity, the person must:
- Be the first one to seek help
- Remain at the scene
- Cooperate with all first responders, including police
Some people feel that the law has too many limitations compared with other states’ laws. For example, a person doesn’t qualify for immunity if
- They’ve been previously convicted of a felony.
- They’ve sought help for another overdose within the past 18 months.
- Police were already on the scene to make an arrest or search the premises.
Further, immunity doesn’t extend to other criminal offenses that police may find evidence of at the scene – like drug trafficking, illegal weapons, stolen goods and more.
Nonetheless, it’s always best to do the right thing – especially when it involves potentially saving a life. Even if you don’t qualify for immunity, prosecutors may take that under consideration when determining whether any other charges are appropriate. That’s just one reason why it’s important to have experienced legal guidance if you’re facing charges after seeking help for someone suffering an overdose.