Aiding a Drug Overdose Victim – Immunity to Charges

The Wisconsin Legislature has recognized the growing problem of deaths caused by drug overdoses in our State.  Heroin, in particular, has become an epidemic in recent years and heroin overdoses have risen by over 500% since 2005.

Recognizing that this is becoming a public health concern, the State Legislature recently enacted a law to try to help those who overdose.  §961.443 of the Wisconsin Statutes is entitled:  Immunity from criminal prosecution; possession.  Basically the law says that if you dial 911 for someone who is overdosing, or bring that person to a hospital, fire station, or other health facility, the person aiding an overdose victim cannot be prosecuted if they (the aider) themselves are found to be in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia.  The exact language of the statute reads as follows:

An aider is immune from prosecution under s. 961.573 for possession of drug paraphernalia, under s. 961.41(3g) for the possession of a controlled substance or controlled substance analog, and under s. 961.69(2) for possession of a masking agent under the circumstances surrounding or leading to his or her commission of an act described in sub. (1).

This is a smart approach to the overdose epidemic.  Unfortunately, not enough people know about the law and heroin overdose deaths are not dropping.  This may be due to a lack of understanding this new law.  It also may be the result of heroin’s continued growth in popularity.