Contradictory laws can cause many consequences, such as confusion or impacted decision-making for citizens. This is certainly true of the Good Samaritan and Death by Distribution laws in North Carolina. The Death by Distribution law has caused a great deal of fear amongst those who might otherwise have called for help in the case of an overdose, as they are unclear as to whether the Good Samaritan law would protect them if they made a life-saving move.
Senate Bill 20, enacted in 2013, is meant to ensure those who seek medical help for an overdosing person are not prosecuted after the incident. The goal is to lessen the fear people might have about calling the authorities during an overdose while in possession of drugs. Lawmakers felt this was an important law in light of the growing number of overdose deaths in the state.
The Death by Distribution law became official on January 1, 2020. It allows for second-degree murder charges to be laid on those who sell drugs that result in an overdose death. This has made some people hesitant to call for help in potential overdose situations, as they feared facing second-degree murder charges despite Good Samaritan protections.
In North Carolina, Good Samaritan protections only cover certain prosecutions, not arrests. In other words, individuals can still be arrested as part of a drug-related investigation if they called for help, and potentially face charges under Death by Distribution. However, those who are accused of a drug-related crime, but who acted in good faith in an overdose incident, may have unique defense options. It is important that people facing such charges speak to a North Carolina criminal law attorney about the specifics of their situation.