Hoosiers expand immunity law

A new bill has been proposed to Indiana state senators and representatives. This bill would expand the current Lifeline Law in Indiana, a law that pertains to all underage drinkers, including high school students.

The current Lifeline Law provides immunity from arrest or prosecution to intoxicated underage drinkers who are calling for emergency assistance for another person in medical danger due to alcohol consumption. The new addition would expand this immunity to underage drinkers who are calling the police to report a medical emergency, who are victims of sexual assault and/or who are witnesses to a crime.

“[The state legislature] is weighing the difference between a situation of life and death opposed to violation of the law. The way the law is written, of course, is you cannot consume alcohol under the age of 21 years of age. However, the way that they’re doing this is should you be in a situation where a person is intoxicated to the point where they may be unconscious, they may be in convulsions or near death, and the person who also has been consuming alcohol reports that to police or EMS and tries to render aid to this person is being held immune,” Brett Sidenbender, Student Resource Officer, said.

The main purpose of this bill is to encourage underage drinkers to always call for help in dangerous situations, even if illegal drinking is present. The hope is that this will save more lives and prevent deaths due to drinking from happening when a person could be saved. Reports indicate that many underage drinking deaths were prevented due to other underage drinkers calling for help, and hopefully this will prevent even more deaths.

“The reason that this law came about is [that] these people under 21 were in this situation, and they were afraid to report it because they felt like, ‘Oh my god, I am going to get arrested.” [Law enforcement is] telling them no, life is more important than putting somebody in jail. So, do I think that that is going to change things in a positive way? Absolutely,” Sidenbender said.

Although this bill was put forth to help save lives, officials do not want this new expansion to become a problem. They do not want students and other underage drinkers to take advantage of this new immunity.

“Basically what we are saying here is we’re not encouraging anybody to drink undereage. We know it happens, but we’re going to say it’s more important that somebody summon help for somebody who may die because of intoxication opposed to worrying about the violation of the law,” Sidenbender said.

This extension of the Lifeline Law has not been passed yet. It is still to be signed by Gov. Mike Pence.