Persons Seeking Medical Assistance for Drug-Related Overdose

Iowa law provides a legal defense for individuals who seek, obtain, or otherwise summon the assistance of law enforcement and emergency medical personnel in instances of suspected drug overdose.  With the plague of fentanyl overdoses being experienced through the state and nation, this is an appropriate measure to ensure that victims can secure desperately needed medical assistance at the earliest opportunity without fear of arrest or prosecution.

Iowa Code section 124.418 was enacted in 2018.  This law categorizes any information or evidence collected or derived as a result of an overdose patient’s good-faith actions in seeking medical assistance, as “protected information.”  It does the same thing for individuals who report thee events for the good-faith purpose of securing medical assistance.  This means that any information or evidence obtained by law enforcement pursuant to their assistance on overdose emergencies may not be used against the patient or reporter in a criminal prosecution for select offenses.  Importantly, this information may not even be used to establish probable cause meaning that law enforcement may not use information that falls within this protection to arrest or charge someone with one of the selected offenses.  It also provides that a person’s pretrial release, probation, supervised release, or parole may not be revoked based upon this “protected information.”

This protection only applies to possession related offenses or sharing of controlled substances without a profit.  It does NOT apply to protect individuals who are dealing or manufacturing drugs or to overdose cases that result in death.

In order for an overdose reporter to take advantage of this defense, the following must be true:

  1. the patient is in need of medical assistance for an immediate health or safety concern;
  2. the reporter is the first person to seek medical assistance for the overdose patient
  3. the reporter provides their name and contact information to medical or law enforcement;
  4. the reporter remains on the scene until assistance arrives;
  5. the  reporter cooperates with medical and law enforcement personnel;
  6. the medical assistance was not sought during the execution of an arrest warrant, search warrant, or other lawful search.