Underagers could avoid drinking ticket in emergencies

A proposed law might cut underage drinkers some slack if they need help. Today

MGN Online

Posted Wednesday, February 5, 2013 --- 6:34 p.m.

A proposed law might cut underage drinkers some slack if they need help. Today's public hearing for a senate bill featured some strong arguments both for and against.

We've all heard the stories of underage drinking someone drinks too much, and everyone leaves not wanting to get in trouble. But at what point is not getting a ticket worth someone's life? A proposed law might cut underage drinkers some slack if they need help.

"As a student I will say you know, you absolutely know when a friend is beyond the point where they need assistance," says UW student, David Gardner.

But when do you make the call? After they've stopped throwing up? Breathing? Or after it's too late.

"If there's someone laying there, passed out, there's vomit lodged in their throat if that was your child would you want a room full of people to scatter and leave them there and not make that call? I think that I would rather have that call made, and give that one person the amnesty," says Senator Gudex.

Trying to save those lives,the bill says you cant get a ticket for drinking underage if you call 911 for help, either for yourself or a friend, and then stay on scene until help arrives.

"I've seen several different people who should have medical assistance but their friends don't want to call, they don't want to get them in trouble, and I've also had friends personally tell me not to call for emergency assistance for them unless I'm 100% positive they're going to die from alcohol poisoning."

Morgan Rae, a UW junior, has been pushing for this since she got to campus. She, along with other UW students, says it's the difference between life and death.

"We're not asking for a get out of jail free card, we're asking for consequences for those decisions, just that they not be fatal consequences."

Part of the bill would also ensure students at UW schools don't get suspended, expelled, or evicted from student housing if they call for help. But that's where school officials say no way, they need those tools.

"When a student lives on campus they agree to be a part of a community," says Gregg Heinselman.

Heinselman works in student affairs at UW River Falls. He says one bad egg in student housing can really affect everyone. He doesn't think the bill will change things at all.

"No, I do not personally or professionally, there's a Cornell study that has some interesting data in relationship to why do students call? And how it influences percentage of calls and the bigger question is why do students not call."

There are still some unanswered questions. If 911 is called, who is exempt from a ticket? How many people? Complicated questions that already have law enforcement weary.

"We would always express concern when limiting an officers discretion on the street."

Another part of the bill, if an underager does call 911 without a real emergency hoping to be exempt, it's not worth it. That punishment could be up to a $600 fine, or 90 days in prison.,

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