Ohio lawmakers are considering a law that would provide a safe haven for underage drinkers who call for medical help. The measure would fall under Ohio’s current Good Samaritan laws, which protect people from facing charges after providing medical assistance to those in need.
Under the proposed bill, underage drinkers could not be prosecuted if they seek medical assistance for themselves or others. However, it would only apply to cases in which police discovered the underage possession or consumption of alcohol because of the call.
Additionally, the underage person would have to reasonably believe that he or she was the first to seek help, and the underage person would have to remain with the person who needed help until help arrived.
Some state university campuses already have the policy in effect, and they report that the policy does not appear to cause additional underage drinking. When a similar measure was proposed last year, the executive director of the Drug Free Action Alliance said her organization supported the bill because it helps young people to make the “right choice.”
The measure could be effective at encouraging young people to call for help when a friend’s life is in danger. Currently, young people often hesitate to call for help because they are afraid of getting into trouble for breaking the law.
As many young people know, a criminal charge -- even for something as seemingly minor as underage drinking -- can affect their lives for many years to come. Hopefully, this bill is successful so that young people aren’t forced to choose between their friends’ health and their futures.
Of course, it’s important to point out that calling for help is always the right thing to do, whether the caller will be protected from prosecution or not.
Even if the caller ends up facing charges, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will likely be able to negotiate a favorable plea bargain because of the heroic actions taken by the caller.