Kentucky Justices Asked to Nix Drug Convictions Under Good Samaritan Law

The statute prevents a person from being prosecuted for drug possession if evidence of the crime is obtained as a result of an overdose and the need for medical help.

The Kentucky Supreme Court chambers. (Photo by David Mark from Pixabay via Courthouse News)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (CN) — Two people convicted of drug crimes argued before the Kentucky Supreme Court on Wednesday that they are immune from prosecution under the state’s good Samaritan law because they were discovered by police after bystanders called for emergency help.

Arguing on behalf of Craig Milner and Lindsey Wilson, attorney Steven Goens told the justices that the pair should have been shielded from prosecution for their drug crimes under the law.

The state’s good Samaritan statute prevents a person from being charged or prosecuted for drug possession if evidence of the crime is obtained “as a result of [a] drug overdose and the need for medical assistance.”

The law also states that citizens are immune from drug possession prosecution if they ask for medical assistance or emergency medical assistance is acquired on their behalf for a drug overdose.

Despite being totally separate, the facts of Milner and Wilson’s cases were so similar that they were consolidated on appeal to the state’s high court after the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled against them.

Wilson was found passed out in the driver’s seat of a car in the driveway of a Lexington woman, who called police after she found him unresponsive. Her arrest and subsequent drug charges came after the arresting officer was able to wake her up, and after Wilson declined medical treatment.

Milner was similarly found passed out in his vehicle in a Home Depot parking lot with one door open by a bystander. The arresting officer found that Milner was intoxicated and he was later charged with drug possession.

Goens argued in front of the seven justices of the Kentucky Supreme Court on Wednesday that Wilson and Milner are exactly the type of people the good Samaritan law is meant to help.

“Lindsey and Craig’s charges and convictions for possession of drugs and paraphernalia, however, were contrary to the plain language of the good Samaritan statute and the legislative intent behind that statute,” Goens said. “The intent of the good Samaritan statute was clear. It was written to save lives, written to save money and written to save resources.”

The crux of Goens’ argument was that in both cases, bystanders found someone was unresponsive in their vehicle and called for emergency help. In addition, both Wilson and Milner remained at the scene until help arrived, and he said this satisfies the law’s requirements.

Goens said that because the law’s requirements were met, both Wilson and Milner should have been found to be exempt from prosecution because all evidence used to prosecute them was gathered because of the calls for help.

Arguing on behalf of the state, attorney Courtney Hightower said the statue is narrow in scope and does not encompass the situations that Milner and Wilson found themselves in.

“If you look at both of these…scenarios, they do not meet the strict requirements of the statute and neither Ms. Wilson or Mr. Milner are entitled to immunity,” Hightower said.

Hightower’s argument is based upon the idea that neither bystander specifically called for help for a drug overdose, and that neither Wilson nor Milner asked for medical help once help arrived.

Whether the bystanders thought Wilson or Milner were overdosed on drugs, which is the basis for the law, is in contention, Hightower said.

The justices did not indicate when they would issue a ruling.

In a brief submitted to the court, Goens argued that bystanders should not be required to confirm if an overdose is happening for the law to cover a certain situation.

“It is…unwise to require the person seeking help for a person to confirm the person is actually overdosing or actually needs help before getting help,” the brief states. “The legislature intended that the statute assist in getting professional medical assistance to a person who may be overdosing as swiftly as possible.”

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