When drinking laws actively criminalize people who are doing the right thing, there’s a problem. Thankfully, the “Good Samaritan” bill passed the state House of Representatives last week, paving the way for a more reasonable law. This policy — which would exempt underage drinkers who call for help for intoxicated friends from receiving minor in possession charges — is something college campuses need. The state Senate should pass the bill so that students who might be hesitant to dial 911 during an emergency will no longer have to fear penalties for being responsible.
State Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor) originally introduced her “Good Samaritan” bill in March in response to concerns that underage drinkers in need of medical attention were going without it because they feared getting MIPs. The bill would amend the Michigan Liquor Control Code and guarantee that intoxicated minors will not receive an MIP charge for bringing a friend to the hospital in the event of an emergency. Brater’s bill finally passed the state House of Representatives last week. It now heads to the Senate.
Regardless of one’s personal feelings about drinking laws, passage of the Good Samaritan policy should be a no-brainer. Upholding the letter of the law shouldn’t be prioritized over people’s safety — the lives of underage drinkers are much more important. And while no one should hesitate in an emergency, the fact that a medical emergency could be ignored because of the fear of legal repercussions should be enough to pass this bill as soon as possible.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown expressed unease with the bill, saying that a possible MIP shouldn’t be a significant barrier to doing the right thing. But the fact is that the threat of MIPs do impact students’ choices when put in the situation of whether to call 911 or not. And while MIPs can, in some cases, be removed from the records of first-time offenders who undergo counseling programs, students don’t want to deal with the impact that these consequences — fines, court appearances and the possibility of probation — can have on their classes, extracurricular activities and jobs. State law needs an exception that allows underage drinkers to call for help even if they have been drinking.
The fact that this bill is now closer to implementation means that some thanks are in order. In addition to Brater’s support of this bill, the Michigan Student Assembly endorsed the bill and wrote a letter to legislators urging them to pass it. And according to multiple sources cited by MSA Business Rep. Alex Serwer in yesterday’s Daily, the letter “held great significance in the House Judiciary Committee’s proceedings.” If this bill becomes law, it will make the drinking climate on campus much safer, and MSA will have contributed in a meaningful way toward improving the lives of University students.
Alcohol-related emergencies shouldn’t go untreated or unnoticed because students are afraid of the legal implications. The state Senate must pass the Good Samaritan bill and do some good for underage drinkers who want to make the right decision in emergency situations.