911 law protects minors against drinking charges

| Apr 20, 2020 | Firm News

A person under 21 may hesitate to call for medical help for someone who needs emergency medical assistance for excessive drinking because they will be prosecuted for underage drinking from making that call. But Texas has a 9-1-1 lifeline law that helps prevent tragic circumstances because it protects these minors from prosecution and the need for a criminal defense. In some situations, this policy may protect them from discipline for drug violations at college.

The Texas 9-1-1 lifeline law prevents prosecutions of a minor under 21 for possessing or consuming alcohol for seeking help for themselves or taking another person to a facility to receive emergency treatment. This also applies if they call 911 for possible alcohol overdoses.

Specifically, a minor is protected if they request emergency medical assistance for themselves and another person and was the first person to seek this assistance. These protections also apply if the minor stays at the scene until medical assistance arrives and cooperates with medical assistance personnel and police.

The 911 law still allows charging a minor for driving while having any detectable amount of alcohol in their system or driving under the influence. They may also be prosecuted for providing alcohol to a minor and a zero-tolerance violation.

Texas is one of 40 states to have this type of good Samaritan law. These were enacted to address the thousands of teenagers who lose their lives each year because of alcohol poisoning or suffering other unintentional injuries from alcohol.

Studies indicate that minors are more concerned about underage drinking or consumption charges than a taking care of another person who needs emergency medical attention from alcohol consumption. These laws try to eliminate this common hesitation by providing limited immunity to underage drinkers by seeking help for themselves or assisting others who need emergency treatment.

Alcohol poisoning signs include unconsciousness, semi-consciousness or passing out. Other indications include unresponsiveness to pinching, low body temperature, slow heart rate, vomiting while sleeping or being passed out, or skin that is blue tinted or pale, cold and clammy. The person may also have slow or irregular breathing at less than eight breaths per minute and eight to 10 seconds between breaths.

This good Samaritan law has also applied to other policies. For example, the University of Texas at Austin provides student amnesty for drug emergencies, in addition to alcohol overdoses.

UT students may avoid formal University action and a formal disciplinary record if they call for emergency help for a drug or alcohol-related emergency. The student must call 911 immediately when they suspect a drug overdoses or alcohol emergency, stay with that person and cooperate with all first responders.

After this event, students are referred to a student conduct and academic integrity committee for evaluation. Students who are eligible for amnesty must participate in an educational component and may have to undergo consultation. Students who do not comply with either of these terms will undergo formal discipline.

If amnesty is granted under the UT program, the student will not face discipline for possession of drugs or alcohol by a minor, unauthorized possession or use of drugs or alcohol on campus, use of drugs and intoxication from using alcohol including public intoxication. UT cannot grant amnesty for criminal charges, however.

Many circumstances often surround a student facing drug charges or underage drinking. An attorney can help them gather evidence to fight or lessen the charges and protect their rights.