A bill granting limited immunity to a minor consuming or possessing alcohol died in the House Judiciary committee Wednesday. The proposed statute would exempt minors from being charged with alcohol-related crimes if they assisted a sick or injured person and stayed to cooperate with emergency personnel.
According to testimony, young people drink irresponsibly in our culture. Some of them take off instead of sticking around to help friends who might be hurt or sick from drinking alcohol or using other drugs.
Proponents of the bill say young people might be more likely to assist friends, rather than fleeing to avoid getting into trouble, if they knew they wouldn’t be charged for consumption or possession.
But opponents of the bill say kids should do the right thing.
Nancy Kueter from Rapid City testified that her son Dustin overdosed on a drug on June 18, 2009, while he was with friends. She says they left him lying on the floor, and one girl talked on her son’s cell phone for 40 minutes while he lay dead.
“We should go the other way and hold people accountable for not calling 9-1-1,” Kueter says. “If we did this, you’d probably see less alcohol and drug poisonings. We need to educate our children, and I’ll continue to tell my son’s story and get my message out.”
Other opponents included law officers, who say they use discretion whether to charge someone with a minor crime if circumstances warrant leniency.
The House Judiciary committee killed the bill by a 7 to 6 vote.