Bill offers immunity to underage drinkers seeking help for friend in danger

DES MOINES — If a bill that cleared the Iowa Senate becomes law, drunk underage college students would not get in legal trouble if they call 9-1-1 to get help for a friend who’s in danger. Senator Brad Zaun of Urbandale met with students from Iowa, Iowa State and U-N-I who are lobbying for the bill.  “The reality is currently on our campuses what’s going on is these kids are scared to call the police,” Zaun says. Under the bill, intoxicated minors seeking assistance for someone who’s overdosing or being sexually assaulted would get a limited form of “immunity.” The bill specifies the student who called 9-1-1 — AND the person in danger — could not be disciplined by his or her school for drinking and would not face criminal charges for public intoxication, alcohol possession or having an open container in a vehicle. Zaun says 36 other states have similar laws in place today.  “We all know that younger people don’t always make good decisions, but what this does is give them immunity,” Zaun says, “and make sure that the person that needs emergency services are free to do that, without prosecution.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday. It must clear the Iowa House, too, and be signed by the governor before it may become law.

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