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What You Need to Know About CA’s Good Samaritan Law

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on March 3, 2021

The Good Samaritan law has ancient roots. However, your understanding of it is likely based on how it is portrayed in pop culture. In truth, trying to be a good person is not always an excuse for your actions.

Understanding the limitations of this law should help you make the difficult decision between admitting to breaking the law and helping someone in need.

The History of the Good Samaritan Law

The name of the Good Samaritan comes from the Bible, in an incident where Jesus Christ told his followers through parable how to treat others. Since their Biblical roots, Good Samaritan laws have traveled the world, and are commonly used in several different countries, America included. California’s version of the law was first passed in 2009 and was designed to protect both medical and nonmedical personnel trying to help others in times of crisis.

The law is covered in Health and Safety Code 1799.102 HS. Before this law passed, it was possible for someone to be sued for rendering medical aid, whether he or she was a medical professional or not. For example, if a lifeguard broke someone’s ribs while giving him CPR after the person was submerged, if that person survived, he could choose to sue the lifeguard for his broken ribs. As a result, helping someone in need could backfire, and led to rescuers losing significant funds and being reluctant to step in again.

How It Impacts You

Why is it important to know about the Good Samaritan law? Well, because you need to know what it does not apply to. In some states, Good Samaritan laws cover some criminal charges. For example, an underage drinker could bring his or her friend to the ER without worrying about an arrest, as the friend’s health is more important than underage drinking. However, that is not the case in California.

California’s Good Samaritan law covers civil liability. As in, it protects people from being sued. It does not protect them from being arrested. It can help you avoid restitution, which is when a criminal court orders you to pay your alleged victims following a conviction. However, it would not protect you from serving jail or prison time. While this only applies if the district attorney chooses to pursue charges, you should never assume that you will be left off the hook due to the Good Samaritan law.

This flies in the face of such laws, as they are meant to encourage people who may otherwise face consequences to do the right thing. Going back to one of the above examples, if you were drinking while under the age of 21, and you noticed that your friend was showing signs of alcohol poising, would it not be more important to get your friend help than to remain out of trouble? Yet people can’t be blamed for choosing to protect themselves, as life with a criminal record can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to find a job, reach for government assistance, and even find a new place to live.

That being said, the Good Samaritan law can be leveraged in your favor. Remember, criminal courts are decided by juries. A jury of your peers may be willing to be lenient if they know that you chose to be caught in favor of helping someone else. Of course, this kind of argument should only be made by an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows his way around court. That is why you should reach out to Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP if you are facing a criminal trial in Los Angeles. Our skills can help you get the favorable outcome you need. Call us at (213) 688-0460. We are ready to help.

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Posted in: Dictionary