It is a foregone conclusion: many Pennsylvania residents who are under the age of 21 consume alcohol. Certainly, such behavior is not always safe or smart, but there may be little that parents, law enforcement, and state legislators can do to stop it. That hasn't prevented all three groups from trying to do so - throughout the past decade, the Pennsylvania state legislature have enacted several measures designed to deter and decrease underage drinking.
However, in a shift from that mindset, the Pennsylvania Senate recently passed a bill that would grant immunity from DUI, underage drinking, and other alcohol-related offenses to underage drinkers. In order to qualify for this protection, the minor has to have called 911 to seek help for an intoxicated friend who is in need of medical attention.
The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously, was created with public safety in mind, aiming to protect underage residents and to prevent severe injury or death due to alcohol poisoning or overconsumption, even if it means offering immunity to other young people who have also consumed alcohol illegally.
Under the bill, the first person to call 911 to report that a friend needed medical attention due to alcohol overconsumption would be protected from criminal charges for underage drinking, drunk driving, or a similar alcohol-related offense. The bill requires that the underage caller provide his or her name to the 911 operator and remain with the injured person until police or paramedics arrive on the scene.
According to Pennsylvania Senator John Rafferty, who sponsored the bill, public safety outweighs criminal prosecution in the situations considered by the bill. "Underage drinking is a serious matter, and we don't want to give minors a free pass," he said. "But if kids are in trouble and need serious attention, we don't want to discourage them from seeking assistance."
Source: CBS News, "Bill would grant minors immunity for helping intoxicated friend," 24 May 2011
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