With underage and binge drinking by young people creating unsafe and medically dangerous situations, State Senator Jim Merritt and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller are visiting college campuses to remind students the Indiana Lifeline Law is in place to protect people from arrest, if first they seek help for an alcohol-related medical emergency.
They shared the message with students at the University of Southern Indiana today as part of an alcohol awareness event at the USI Business and Engineering Center.
“Our number one goal is to deter underage Hoosiers from drinking alcohol illegally and making unsafe decisions, however, we know mistakes can happen, especially on college campuses,” Sen. Merritt said. “Tragically, more than two dozen Hoosier students under the age of 21 have lost their lives to alcohol poisoning since 2004. To help prevent such devastating and unnecessary deaths, young students must be aware of Indiana’s Lifeline Law so that they do not hesitate to make a call, save a life.”
“College students were the true leaders last year who helped organize and make the case for getting this new law passed in the Legislature. Now we need them to continue to lead in getting the word out that the Lifeline Law is in force to encourage medical intervention if their fellow students make mistakes with alcohol. If students understand how the Lifeline Law works, we hope they will not be reluctant to call 911 – and instead will readily seek medical help for impaired friends and not look the other way,” Zoeller said at USI.
Out of concern that underage drinkers might not seek help for an intoxicated person in medical distress due to fear of being arrested themselves, college students from several campuses around the state proposed the Indiana Lifeline Law and advocated it at the Legislature, where the bill passed in 2012 and was signed into law by then-Governor Mitch Daniels.
Senator Merritt, R-Indianapolis, was the author of the bill, Senate Enrolled Act 274, which took effect in July 2012 and now is known as the Indiana Lifeline Law. Merritt is an advocate of the law due to the tragic death of 18-year-old Brett Finbloom of Carmel, Ind., who died of alcohol poisoning after an underage drinking situation where medical assistance was not sought in time.
Intended to prevent alcohol-related deaths by encouraging prompt medical response, the Lifeline Law creates legal immunity for the person who calls emergency services. “Legal immunity” means the prosecutor would not file criminal charges for alcohol offenses – such as illegal possession or public intoxication – against those who request help for an intoxicated friend and remain at the scene to cooperate with emergency responders.
This month, Merritt and Zoeller are visiting college and university campuses and speaking to student leadership groups conducting alcohol awareness events to remind students of the Lifeline Law and encourage them to discuss it with their peers.
“Underage alcohol consumption is illegal and not something we encourage, but if young people have made one mistake with alcohol they should not compound that mistake by failing to seek help when an impaired friend needs it. The Lifeline Law recognizes that treating a medical emergency and potentially saving a life is a higher priority, and so young people should know they can call 911 without incurring legal consequences,” Zoeller said.