Expansions to 'Good Samaritan' law on track for passage

Published: Apr. 10, 2019 at 5:48 PM CDT
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Seventeen people die each day in Florida as a result of the opioid crisis, but a new bill aims to save lives by creating incentives for people to report overdoses when they occur.

In Florida, a person who reports a drug overdose can be shielded from prosecution for drug possession, but Senator Jeff Brandes says those protections don’t go far enough and aren’t extended to people who self-report overdoses.

“Everyone hears these horror stories and it's, you know, one of the things you constantly hear when you talk to these groups after the fact, is, 'I was afraid of getting prosecuted,'” said Brandes.

Without debate, legislation sponsored by Brandes that would expand the list of immunities to include drug trafficking, possession with intent to sell, and first-degree murder for those who report cleared its final Senate committee.

“If you're ever in doubt you should call, and that's what we think this bill will do, is incentivize people to make the right decision,” said Brandes.

The bill also creates protections for underage drinkers who report suspected alcohol poisoning.

It comes as a response to the death of an FSU Fraternity pledge who died from alcohol poisoning after his friends hesitated to call for help.

“They're afraid that they're going to get in trouble,” said Brandes. "You're not going to get in trouble if you do the right thing and you act in good faith.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody says she supports efforts to increase reporting.

“Any legislation that is designed to help save lives I am a proponent for,” said Moody.

However, she hasn’t taken a formal stance on the bill.

“As you know, laws during the legislative session change at a moment's notice, so we're keeping tabs on it,” said Moody.

While the bill is ready for a floor vote in both chambers, the House bill doesn’t go nearly as far as the Senate’s. It only includes protections for self-reporting and underage drinkers.

Senator Brandes has pushed similar legislation in years past, but he says this year he’s confident at least some expansion of the Good Samaritan law will pass.

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