LIFELINE: A NEW LIFE SAVING LAW BY ATTORNEY COREY L. SCOTT It has been said that confession is good for the soul. So let me start by confessing that until a few weeks ago, I had no idea that the Indiana legislature had passed a new law intended to save the lives of high school and college students. Not that I know everything or even most things for that matter, but I’m guessing that like me, many of you have never heard of the Lifeline law. Well, allow me to introduce you … the Lifeline law grants immunity (prevents arrest and prosecution) from criminal charges such as public intoxication or minor consumption of alcohol to those who call 911 when a friend has had too much to drink and is in danger. It should be noted that in order for the Lifeline law to apply, those who call for emergency medical assistance must:
1) provide their full name;
2) provide any other relevant information requested by a law enforcement officer;
3) remain at the scene with the individual in need of medical assistance until emergency medical assistance arrives; and
4) cooperate with emergency medical assistance personnel and law enforcement officers at the scene. I first learned of the law when I read a story in the Indianapolis Star recently about the tragic death of Carmel teen, Brett Finbloom who died of alcohol poisoning a few days before he was to begin college at the University of Oklahoma. Carmel police reportedly got very little information about what Finbloom had been drinking and it is believed that most of the people present at the house party were long gone when authorities arrived. The intent of the law is to remove any obstacle or apprehension that might prevent someone from calling for medical assistance because of fear that they will be arrested and prosecuted.
This is an important law because in these situations, every moment can be critical to getting medical attention and saving lives. The law is also important because some states prosecute friends or those present with crimes such as involuntary manslaughter when there is a teen death from alcohol poisoning. I also must confess that I had no idea about the extent of this problem. Teen deaths from alcohol poisoning is a very serious problem in the U.S., the National Center for Health Statistics found that in 2005, there were 157 people between the ages of 18-23 who died from alcohol poisoning. For example, just this past spring break season (March 2012) three teens died of alcohol poisoning: 19 year old Molly Ammon, a star student, had always been a responsible child. However, the University of Florida freshman, died of alcohol poisoning at a spring break party, her blood level was 0.4, five times the legal limit, experts say that her blood alcohol level was equivalent to consuming 13 drinks very quickly. 17 year old Salvador Preciado, a student at Panoroma Senior High School was found dead the morning after attending a party when his mother found him to be unresponsive. 18 year old Minorum Hong was found passed out in his car when his friend who also slept in the car woke up and discovered that Hong was dead. A 2010 government survey found that 42 percent of full-time college students are binge drinkers and that many view drinking games as part of the fun and that drinking to the point of passing out is a normal end to a night of partying.
In researching this issue, I found that the facts and circumstances surrounding the deaths of these teens, to be very murky, with witnesses being very apprehensive about providing details that could prevent these events in the future or provide mourning families with much needed closure. Generally speaking, where there is apprehension, there is also delay, while stories are gotten together, scenes are arranged, fearful people make their getaway and precious minutes and sometimes lives are lost. That this law faced no opposition in the legislature is a testament to the fact that we all can agree (even Democrats and Republicans in an election year) that this is a good law, now we must all do our part to make sure that this is a known law. The more you know, the more you owe. You are now “in the know,” so pay it forward. Each one, teach one …so that lives may be saved.