Assemblymember Anthony Portantino's bill encouraging teenagers to seek emergency help for underage drinkers passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee today on a unanimous, bi-partisan vote. The bill would offer limited immunity for the teen reporting the incident and as a result might just save lives.
"As the father of a teenager, I am pleased that this bill could help her or someone else's daughter or son who needs emergency help," said Assemblymember Portantino (D-Pasadena). "I introduced this bill to make sure that all Californians feel they can call for help when they need it."
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 would be limited to the victim and the one or two underage peers if they act in good faith, make a call to 911, and stay at the scene until the authorities arrive. AB 1999 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 sends a message that if you do the right thing by helping a friend in distress you will not be punished.