Reporting Esme Murphy
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Some University of Minnesota students are pushing for a bill at the Capitol that they say could save the lives of underage binge drinkers.
Students say their peers are afraid to call for medical help for themselves, or for a friend because they’re scared they’ll face criminal charges as a result.
Students said there’s even fear to report a sexual assault if a victim has been drinking.
A proposed bill would change that, providing legal amnesty for anyone asking for medical or legal help.
“Friends will put their friends to bed who has been intoxicated, or even assaulted, or wait until they sober up to call emergency services,” said U of M senior Abby Huebsch, who’s on the University Student Legal Services Board.
Junior Matt Forstie seconded that sentiment.
“This would encourage underage folks that have been drinking that have been sexually assaulted, assaulted, or hurt in some other way to go and report that right away,” said Forstie, Chairman of the Minnesota Student Legislative Coalition.
But at a hearing at the Capitol on Tuesday, some legislators expressed concern that the bill could be perceived as encouraging underage drinking.
That concern was shared by Jim Franklin, Executive Director of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.
“If kids think this is going to be a free pass to underage drinking it could lead possibly to more alcohol, not less,” Franklin said.
The bill passed the House Committee by a voice vote, and then passed the Senate Committee late Tuesday night. Sen. Barb Goodwin is the Senate sponsor, and she says she’s convinced the bill will pass.
“To me, it’s about saving lives,” Goodwin added. “It’s about making sure that they can call an ambulance or get this person to the hospital without themselves being charged with minor consumption.”
The bill would not provide legal protection to an adult who provides alcohol to minors.