Minors could be immune from charges if alcohol involved

By Gary Brode | gbrode@wcia.com

Published 03/06 2014 05:46PM

Updated 03/06 2014 05:50PM

CHAMPAIGN -- Students can be hesitant to call police if alcohol is involved when a problem happens. But, if they don't their friends could die. Now, there's a push to change that. Many times, underage drinkers can go too far. Some might not get the medical help they need because their friends are scared of the consequences. WCIA-3's Gary Brode has more from the UI campus.

Unofficial St. Patrick's Day starts Friday. Campus will most likely be crawling with students who've been drinking all day long. The question is, if they need an ambulance, will they get it?

People come from all over to drink for hours, but some nights don't end well. For underage drinkers, calling 911 isn't always the choice they make.

"I've known a friend who was really intoxicated and he decided not to call, so the R.A. called and he went to the hospital."

"I would feel worried about getting into trouble if I was also heavily intoxicated being underage."

A new bill may ease some of those concerns. In it, underage drinkers wouldn't face alcohol charges if they call for help when someone is drunk. The person needing help would be immune as well.

"So, when someone calls for someone who needs medical assistance for too much alcohol, the first thing that jumps in my mind is making sure the person is safe. We have no interest in punishing someone punitively for doing the right thing."

But, UI Police say they don't need a new law. That's the way they've always done it, but not all students are so sure.

"In that situation, I don't know of any tickets, but I have heard a lot of things."

"The urban legends and the myths, we hear students say, I heard students where, it turns out that the issue was not that the person was intoxicated and underage. It was that they committed another criminal offense."

Some think the bill could save lives.

"People would much rather be safe than sorry in that situation because they know they won't get penalized, them or their friend. And, it's really just a case of what's best for them."

But, not everyone agrees.

"For the student body's health, because it sort of encourages people to drink, saying it's okay if you get caught."

Some say they have no problem with the bill and expect it to be passed, adding it would be good for the rest of the state as well. Illinois wouldn't be the only state to push through this type of legislation.

Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have passed some form of drinking and drug immunity laws. Lawmakers say they were needed. Alcohol and drug overdoses have tripled since 1990.

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