final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Duval County. Marianne L.
Thomas, Public Defender, and Steven L. Seliger, Assistant
Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Steven E. Woods, Assistant
Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.
2012, the Florida Legislature found it was "in the
public interest to encourage a person who is aware of or
present during another individual's drug overdose to seek
medical assistance for that individual." Ch. 2012-36,
Laws of Fla. The Legislature therefore enacted the "911
Good Samaritan Act, " which provides that anyone
"acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for
an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose" is
immune from prosecution for drug possession if the evidence
"was obtained as a result of the person's seeking
medical assistance." § 893.21(1), Fla. Stat.
(2016). The issue in this case is whether that statutory
immunity reaches Thomas Pope, who sought medical help for a
young woman overdosing on heroin.
facts are disputed, but the pertinent ones are not. Because
neither side asks us to disturb the trial court's factual
findings, our obligation is to apply the law to those
findings, which means our review is de novo. See Cuervo
v. State, 967 So.2d 155, 160 (Fla. 2007).
December 2016, Thomas Pope and two friends were doing heroin
together at Pope's home. One of the friends, a young
woman named Ashley, overdosed and stopped breathing. Pope
immediately got on the phone with 911, providing his address
and seeking help. He answered the 911 operator's
questions regarding Ashley's condition, and he followed
the operator's instructions to monitor her breathing and
tilt her head to open her airway. Emergency responders
quickly arrived, recognized symptoms consistent with a heroin
overdose, and successfully administered a medication to
counteract the effects. Ashley survived.
some admirable efforts to save his friend, Pope's conduct
was far from exemplary. At some point after the 911 call but
before responders arrived, Pope moved Ashley to the front
porch, leaving her briefly unattended. He tried to hide the
heroin and rearranged things inside the home. When emergency
responders arrived, he initially refused to answer the door,
and when he finally did, he did nothing to help them help his
friend. He denied knowing Ashley, saying he had no idea where
she came from or what she had taken. He was belligerent,
somewhat aggressive, and entirely uncooperative.
State charged Pope with possession of heroin and marijuana,
both of which were found inside the home. Pope moved to
dismiss under the 911 Good Samaritan Act, arguing that
because authorities found the drugs only because of his
seeking medical treatment in good faith, he could not be
prosecuted. The court held an evidentiary hearing and denied
the motion. The court found the whole episode was a
"fluid situation" that involved some good faith and
some bad faith. It explained that although Pope may have
acted initially in good faith when seeking medical
assistance, he was later not acting in good faith
when he was "making things more difficult" for the
the court denied Pope's motion, he pleaded guilty,
specifically reserving the right to appeal the denial of his
dispositive motion. See Fla. R. App. P.
9.140(b)(2)(A)(i). The court imposed a fifteen-month
sentence, and Pope now appeals the order denying immunity.
undisputed that Pope contacted 911 for no reason other than
to "seekmedical assistance for an individual
experiencing a drug-related overdose." See
§ 893.21(1). And it is undisputed that evidence of
Pope's drug possession "was obtained as a result of
[Pope's] seeking medical assistance." See
id. The only issue on appeal is whether Pope acted in
good faith in seeking the assistance. See id.
(limiting immunity to "[a] person acting in good
faith who seeks medical assistance") (emphasis
argues that by providing the 911 operator with Ashley's
location and condition, and then following the operator's
instructions in rendering medical aid, he met the
statute's "good faith" requirement. The trial
court's contrary conclusion-and the State's argument
on appeal-relate more to what Pope did after he
sought medical assistance. The State argues (correctly) that
Pope could have and should have done more. But the
Legislature did not condition immunity on doing more than
seeking medical assistance in good faith. The Legislature
could have imposed more conditions. Indeed, other
legislatures have. See, e.g., W.Va. Code §
16-47-4 (2015) (limiting immunity to those who
"[c]ooperate with and provide any relevant
information requested by emergency medical assistance
personnel or law-enforcement officers needed to treat the
[overdosing] person"); Cal. Health & Safety Code
§ 11376.5 (West 2013) (limiting immunity to those who do
"not obstruct medical or law enforcement
personnel"); Del. Code. Ann. tit. 16, § 4769 (West
2013) (limiting immunity to those who "provide all
relevant medical information as to the cause of the overdose
. . . when a medical provider arrives").
of whether Pope should have behaved better, his purpose in
contacting 911 was to save his friend. That was a good-faith
purpose. Under a plain reading of the 911 Good Samaritan Act,
we conclude Pope was "[a] person acting in good faith
who [sought] medical assistance." § 893.21(1). The
Act therefore gave him ...