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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: September 22, 2017 12:10 PM
From: Representative Marcia M. Hahn
To: All House members
Subject: Good Samaritan Legislation
Two legislative sessions ago, this General Assembly enacted a Good Samaritan Immunity for those using drugs who witness an overdose and then remain with the victim until help arrives. This immunity has encouraged people to seek medical help for those suffering overdoses and has no doubt saved many lives when, in the past, those seeking help may have been too afraid of getting arrested themselves to call for help.

One year ago, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reached a decision in Commonwealth v. Carontenuto that expanded the scope of this immunity in an unanticipated way. In that case, someone who was not using illegal drugs, but who simply witnessed an overdose called for help. The overdose victim was eventually charged with drug-related offenses but successfully invoked the immunity on his own behalf. The way he did this was by misconstruing a part of the statute which was intended to say that an overdose victim enjoys immunity from prosecution if the person who calls for help qualifies for immunity from prosecution. This was intended to encourage drug users to call for help. In the Carontenuto case, however, a manager of a recovery house called for help—not another drug user. Nevertheless, the court said that the language in the statute was not precise enough and dismissed the drug charges against the person who overdosed.

I intend to introduce legislation to limit the scope of the Good Samaritan Immunity to the way it was originally intended. That means, the immunity would apply to both the person calling for help and to the overdose victim—but only when the person calling for help has committed a criminal offense. After all, someone who simply finds an overdose victim, like the recovery house manager in the Carontenuto case, has no reason to fear arrest and therefore needs no further encouragement to seek help.

I hope you will join me in sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB1871