SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Anthony Portantino's bill encouraging teenagers to seek emergency medical help for underage drinkers passed its first Senate Committee today on a unanimous, bi-partisan vote. The bill makes it easier for teens to call for help when they suspect alcohol poisoning.
"I introduced this bill to make sure that young people feel they can call '911' when they need it and not worry that they will be punished," explained Portantino. "As the father of a teenage girl, I would hope this bill could help her or someone else's daughter or son who needs emergency medical treatment."
AB 1999 would protect an underage drinker, or one or two friends, who seek emergency medical attention due to alcohol poisoning by granting immunity from criminal prosecution. The immunity would be limited to the victim and one or two underage peers if they act in good faith, make a call to 911, and stay at the scene until authorities arrive. The bill is modeled on similar legislation in Colorado and New Jersey. The experience in those states shows that this approach does not encourage underage drinking but creates a situation where a teen gets the medical help he or she may need.
"Let me be clear; this bill does not condone underage drinking. What it does do is give young people a lifeline if they have made a mistake and are in trouble," testified Portantino. "AB 1999 sends a message that if you do the right thing helping a friend in distress, you will not be punished."
Over the last year, there have been several underage Californians who have died due to suspected alcohol poisoning. Friends have said that they were scared to call for help because they didn't want to get in trouble.
AB 1999 was approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee on a vote of 7 to 0.