Intoxicated minors need not fear to call for help, says Senate panel

Published February 22, 2010 9:28 pm
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A Senate committee gave a unanimous thumbs-up to a bill that would give consideration for good behavior to an intoxicated minor who calls for emergency medical care for another underage drinker.

HB277 seeks to prevent situations like that of Michael Starks, the Utah State University freshman who died during a hazing incident in 2009 due to alcohol overconsumption. It was a death that could have been avoided had the other participants not been afraid to call police, said Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, the bill's sponsor.

"This is allowing young people to know that even if they behave in an irresponsible manner, their responsible actions will be taken into consideration by the court," Johnson said.

Johnson was first introduced to the topic when her daughter was asked to sign a petition at school requesting that the minors who call for help be granted complete amnesty from legal backlash, a move that Johnson said goes "a bit too far."

The bill is backed by the Attorney General's office, state prosecutors and the Utah Substance Abuse and Anti-Violence Council and passed unanimously through both a House committee and the House floor.

Dalane England, vice president of issues for the Utah Eagle Forum, expressed support for the bill and said that it helps young people who aren't in the right situation to do the right thing and "possibly save lives."

"It's too bad they have to have a law to give [the minors] an out on this," said Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, who sits on the committee. "I'm in agreement with the bill."

HB277 now moves to the full Senate for debate.

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