SACRAMENTO, CA- Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D- La Cañada Flintridge) introduced AB 1999 which encourage teenagers to seek emergency response when a fellow teen is in need of medical attention. The bill would offer limited immunity for the teen reporting the incident and as a result cause more incident reports. The net results might just lead to saving lives.
This bill would protect an underage drinker, or one or two peers who seek emergency medical attention due to alcohol poisoning by granting immunity from criminal prosecution. The immunity could only be granted to the victim and the one or two underage peers acting in concert if they were the original callers and stayed at the scene until the authorities arrived. AB 1999 is modeled on similar legislation from other states. The experience in other states shows that this approach does not encourage or condone underage drinking but creates a situation where a child in need gets the medical help they warrant.
"Let me be clear, this bill does not condone underage drinking," says Assemblymember Portantino. "What it does is decrease barriers for young people who need emergency medical care but are scared to call because they made a mistake." As a father of a teenager, I want to know that if she or one of her friends, or someone else's child were ever in need of help, their peers would be favorably inclined to seek that help. We know that the fear of reporting these types of incidents has led to inaction that has threatened someone's life."
Over the last year, there have been several underage Californians that have died due to suspected alcohol poisoning that may have benefited from this law. Friends of the deceased teens have said that they were scared to call for help because they did not want to get in legal trouble.
"This law is about saving lives," Assemblymember Portantino continued. "It is important that we make sure young people are getting the medical care they need regardless of the circumstances. After they are safe, the consequences of the young person's actions will be between him or her and their parents."
In the states that have states adopted similar "911 Immunity" laws, and in each there has been bi-partisan support. If this proposal is adopted, California would join Colorado, New Jersey, and Texas in giving underage drinkers a safe way to call for help.