What does this new law do?
You and the overdose victim cannot be charged with possession for small amounts of illegal drugs when calling 911 or taking someone to an emergency room for an overdose.
What is considered a small amount of drugs?
Under this new law possession of up to 3 grams or less of heroin or cocaine and less than one gram of methamphetamine would be immune from prosecution. Please refer to Illinois Public Act 097-0678 for information on specific drugs and weight limits or click here.
Are there any drugs that are not covered under this law?
Yes. Marijuana (cannabis) is not covered under this law. If you are in possession of cannabis, this law will not protect you from prosecution. All other drugs are covered under this law, but weight restrictions apply. Please refer to Illinois Public Act 097-0678 for information on specific drugs and weight limits or click here.
Who gets the protection from prosecution? Everyone involved at the scene? Or just the caller?
Only the caller and the overdosing person receive protection. The law does NOT provide immunity to other individuals at the scene. It does not provide immunity to people who sold or gave the drugs to the overdosing person.
Does the law’s immunity apply to an alcohol overdose that involves a minor?
No. The term "controlled substance" has a specific legal definition and does not include alcohol on the list of these substances. However, there may be community ordinances or other policies in place for underage individuals calling for help in the event of alcohol poisoning. College students should check to see if their university has an medical amnesty policy program that allows students to report an alcohol overdose without receiving sanctions for violating an alcohol use policy.
Does the law always apply if the person dies from the overdose?
It depends. As long as the caller sought medical attention for the overdosing person in good faith - meaning the 911 call was placed when the person was alive - the caller will still receive immunity from possession charges. However, if the caller is the person who gave or sold the victim the drugs that led to the overdose, the caller could be charged with drug-induced homicide if the person dies. In that case, the fact that the person tried to get medical help may be used by the judge as a condition for getting a shorter sentence.
The 911 law refers to “seeking emergency medical help.” Does the immunity apply only when calling 911, or will it also apply if I take the overdose victim to an emergency room?
The immunity applies to any “good faith effort” to seek emergency medical help, whether that is calling 911, taking the overdose victim to an emergency room or running to a neighbor who is a doctor. Remember, though, that the key to saving a life from overdose is to get professional medical help the fastest way possible. If your community has an emergency medical response system in place, it is best to call 911 in the event of an overdose. In rural areas it might be different. You need to use your best judgment about the fastest way to get someone help. If you have Narcan™ (naloxone) use it first.
Does the law cover all possible possession charges?
No. The immunity only applies to possession charges in the event of an overdose for the victim and the caller.
What happens if I call 911 and someone is having an overdose? What if the police come?
It is important to talk to the EMTs about the person’s condition in order to save their life. For more information about your rights should the police arrive, please visit the ACLU’s guide on understanding and knowing your rights by clicking here.
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Illinois’ 911 Good Samaritan Overdose Law