Bill Would Exempt Under-age Drinkers from Prosecution If They Are First to Call 9-1-1 and Stay Until Help Arrives
Under-age drinkers who report a medical emergency would avoid prosecution if a measure approved April 5 by the state Assembly becomes law.
To avoid being charged, a person under the age of 21 must call 9-1-1 and report “in good faith” that another person under the age of 21 needs medical attention because of drinking alcohol.
In addition, that person must be the first individual to dial 9-1-1 and must stay at the scene until assistance.
The measure also appears to exempt “one or two other persons acting in concert with the person under the age of 21 years who made the 9-1-1 report” who also remain at the scene.
Also exempted from prosecution is the under-age person who receives the medical attention.
“This bill does not condone underage drinking,” Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a Pasadena Democrat. “What it does is make it easier for young people to call for help when they suspect alcohol poisoning. As the father of a teenage girl, I am pleased that this bill could provide help to her or someone else’s daughter or son who needs emergency medical treatment.”
Existing law makes drinking under the age of 21 a misdemeanor punishable by a $250 fine.
Portantino says his measure provides a “safe and scientifically proven way for young people in trouble to reach out for help.”
And, Portantino says, “it also sends a message that if you do the right thing by helping a friend in distress you will not b punished.”
Portantino cites Cornell University’s experience in which emergency calls increased 22 percent when it instituted a 9-1-1-immunity policy. Sixty-one percent said they were less afraid to call for help knowing they were immune from prosecution.
While Portantino stresses alcohol poisoning in his press release, the bill itself – AB 1999 — contains no such restriction on what constitutes the need for medical assistance.
The measure was sent to the Senate by the lower house on a bipartisan 61 to 1 vote. It will likely return to the Assembly before being sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who has yet to offer an opinion on it.
Filed under: Legislature/Legislation
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