Potential Criminal Liability For Good Samaritans in Florida
The Tampa Bay Times recently reported that the Good Samaritan who turned armed Samaritan on a recent Sunday will not face charges after shooting a 63-year-old man whom he initially tried to help. In an ironic twist, Largo police have instead asked the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to determine whether the 63-year-old should be charged with aggravated assault. The 63-year-old was reportedly discovered laying in the middle of a street after “likely” being struck by a “hit-and-run” driver. The Samaritan reportedly shot the 63-year-old in his leg as a defense after he pulled out a boxcutter and went after the Samaritan and another man who tried to help him. In lieu of the fact that the Samaritan clearly only utilized his weapon in response to being attacked by the man he was trying to help, it is understandable why prosecutors have chosen not to pursue charges against him. However, all Good Samaritans are not absolved of criminal liability.
Will I Face Criminal Liability if I Pull Over to Help at the Scene of an Accident?
Truthfully, you could. A person who chooses to act generally cannot incur civil liability under Florida’s Good Samaritan Law. Under this statute, an individual cannot be sued for civil damages for results of emergency care administered barring other circumstances such as the individual acting unreasonably or in bad faith. However, this statute only gives reassurance to potential Good Samaritans that they most likely will not face a potential financial challenge at the hands of the person he or she tried to help. Unfortunately, there is no statute in the Sunshine State that absolves an individual of liability for criminal charges.
Am I Legally Obligated to Stop?
Generally speaking, no. In most circumstances, the choice of whether to stop and try to assist others who appear to be in distress is entirely yours. There is no law in the state of Florida that obligates everyday citizens to stop and attempt to offer emergency care. However, you should also understand that this rule goes out the window if you are actually involved in an accident in any way. Because you can incur criminal liability in that circumstance, you should always pull over if you witness an accident and are unsure whether your vehicle was involved.
Are There Other Good Samaritan Provisions Under Florida Law?
Yes. Under Florida law, manslaughter in the second degree can be imposed on any behavior that constitutes culpable negligence without lawful justification including being present during an overdose that becomes fatal. However, a different Florida statute allows would-be Samaritans to obtain help for a drug overdose without the risk of being prosecuted. In a time when the consequences of opioid addiction are more apparent than ever in this country, the legislative reasoning for this statute is clear.
Allow Us to Help.
If you are facing criminal charges related to your attempt to be a Good Samaritan in any context, it is critical that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You should never attempt to face any kind of criminal charge without competent legal help. Donald C. Barrett is the Tampa criminal attorney you want on your side to fight for you and help prepare you for whatever you will face in the future. Begin by scheduling a consultation today.