Good Samaritan Law Gives Civil Immunity for Using Force to Remove Child from Vehicle

Nearly 40 children die each year from being left in a hot car with seven deaths already reported prior to the start of summer. In hopes of preventing even a few of these deaths, Utah has adjusted their Good Samaritan law to give civil immunity to those who use force to remove a child from a vehicle.

Hot car deaths

Photo by: Bradley Gordon

Temperatures around Utah are soaring, some nearing the triple digits and the fear of children dying from being left in hot cars is increasing. One family in St. George Utah had a close call this month when the mother went into a Smith’s Marketplace to do some grocery shopping, forgetting her infant was with her in the car. Fortunately for her, a passerby in the parking lot heard the baby cry and removed the baby from the vehicle while awaiting medical personnel. The baby was visibly overheated and was taken to the hospital. Luckily, the infant is expected to make a full recover. The mother is facing charges for child abuse.

Safe child, broken window

Not only was this incident fortunate due to the passerby hearing the baby in time, but the Good Samaritan was also lucky they didn’t have to use force to obtain access to the car. Until recently, people who broke vehicle windows to rescue children from hot cars were protected from criminal charges, but then could have a civil suit filed against them by the car owner. Anyone looking to save a child from a heat related death would have to do so knowing their good deed could result in them being sued.

Civil immunity for Good Samaritans

Photo by: Rick

No one should be punished for saving the life of a child and now Utah law protects Good Samaritan’s who step in the save a child from a hot car. HB152 which was put into effect early this month modifies the Good Samaritan Law to “[address] civil immunity for persons who use force to remove a confined child from a motor vehicle”. Utah Code 78B-4-501 states “A person who renders emergency care at or near the scene of, or during an emergency, gratuitously and in good faith, is not liable for any civil damages or penalties as a result of any act or omission by the person rendering the emergency care unless the person is grossly negligent or caused the emergency”. That section now adds: “A person who uses reasonable force to enter a locked and unattended motor vehicle to remove a confined child is not liable for damages in a civil action if all of the following apply:

(i) The person has a good faith belief that the confined child is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death unless the confined child is removed from the motor vehicle;

(ii) The person determines that the motor vehicle is locked and there is no reasonable manner in which the person can remove the confined child from the motor vehicle;

(iii) Before entering the motor vehicle, the person notifies a first responder of the confined child;

(iv) The person does not use more force than is necessary under the circumstances to enter the motor vehicle and remove the confined child from the vehicle; and

(v) The person remains with the child until a first responder arrives at the motor vehicle.”

That section warns “A person is not immune from civil liability under this Subsection if the person fails to abide by any of the provisions . . . or commits any unnecessary or malicious damage to the motor vehicle.” Additionally, Good Samaritans are only granted civil immunity for breaking into a car to save a child. This same law does not apply toward saving animals left in hot vehicles. Individuals who graciously save an animal from a vehicle could still end up facing civil charges if any damage is done to the vehicle during the rescue. For more information on Good Samaritan Laws, contact a credible attorney.

Counterfeit Pain Pills More Dangerous Than Originals

Thousands of counterfeit pain pills confiscated during a massive drug bust turned out to be more dangerous that the original prescriptions the bogus pills were imitating.

Distribution of pain pills

Drug bust

Photo by: Bill Brooks

Just a couple days prior to Thanksgiving, a man renting a home in Cottonwood Heights, Utah was arrested for what authorities are calling one of the largest drug busts in Utah’s history. The thousands of pills that 26 year old Aaron Michael Shamo was making and selling daily were being designed to look like popular pain pills such as Percocet and OxyContin, but instead contained an ingredient far more addictive and dangerous than oxycodone – Fentanyl. Detectives believe Shamo had sold and shipped the counterfeit pain pills throughout Utah as well as around the nation over the course of several months. The pain pills containing fentanyl could have reached millions of people over that span of time.

Fentanyl

Fentanyl is referred to as prescription heroin since users feel many of the same effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes fentanyl as “a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent.” Due to this high potency, fentanyl is extremely dangerous and carries a greater risk of death. The CDC  stated that the “DEA describes fentanyl as a powerful narcotic associated with an epidemic of opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States.” By taking black market pain pills without knowing the actual ingredients, an increased number of individuals are likely to overdose. Those who are frequent users of pain pills may receive a high from the counterfeit pain pills containing fentanyl. Others who have a lower tolerance to opioids may suffer respiratory distress and die from a single pill.

Utah’s prescription drug problem was bad enough

pain pillsUtah has a major prescription drug problem. According to the Utah Department of Health, “Every month in Utah, 24 individuals die from prescription drug overdoses. Utah ranked 4th in the U.S. for drug poisoning deaths ( . . .)” They also stated that “59% of deaths from prescription pain medications involved oxycodone”. With so many drug overdoses from oxycodone itself, how many more would die when counterfeit pain pills containing fentanyl are taken instead? The sad reality of Utah’s prescription drug problem is most of the residents who abuse prescription drugs got their start with a legal prescription from a doctor. Unable to fight the opioid’s addictive quality, many of those individuals turn to street drugs or street pills. Instead of receiving the help and rehabilitation they need, they may be getting a deadly dose of fentanyl.

Help on the horizon?

For those who have family or friends who are suffering from addiction, there is hope when a loved one takes one dose to many. Not only did Utah pass the Good Samaritan Law, allowing persons to report an overdose of another without fearing their own prosecution, but there are overdose reversing drugs such as Narcan (nalaxone) that can be prescribed to someone who is close to an addict. Narcan can safely reverse an overdose to heroin or opioids and is responsible for saving over 150 lives so far in Utah alone. Unfortunately however, the overdose reversal drugs are no match for high potency fentanyl, such as the as counterfeit pain pills being distributed in high quantities by Aaron Shamo.

Narcan

Photo by: Peretz Partensky

According to the CDC, “Multiple doses of naloxone [Narcon] may be needed to treat a fentanyl overdose because of its high potency.” If the person administering Narcan to a fentanyl overdose patient or loved one is unaware of the need for additional doses to combat the fentanyl, the victim may still die.

Education and treatment

With so many Utah residents suffering from addiction and dependency on pain pills, it is vital that those afflicted receive the help they need through residential drug treatment facilities. These facilities should be accessible to all either by voluntarily checking themselves in or if facing charges such as possession of schedule II drugs, mandatory treatment should be issued instead of jail time (for where little to no rehabilitation is available). To discuss drug charges and options for treatment, contact a criminal defense attorney. For a list of drug rehabilitation centers throughout Utah, contact the Department of Health.