Politics & Government

Law signed to protect underage drinkers who call 911

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Underage drinkers can call 911 for medical help for themselves or another person without fear of being prosecuted for their illegal drinking.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 133 into law on Tuesday.

The law aims to encourage people in a medical emergency to call for help. It’s similar to various Good Samaritan laws enacted across the county, which protect people from drug or alcohol charges if they report alcohol poisoning or a drug overdose.

Underage drinkers would be immune from criminal prosecution if they called law enforcement or EMS on behalf of themselves or other drinkers who needed medical help. They would have to cooperate with first responders and remain on the scene for the immunity to apply.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, says he hopes the new law will prevent alcohol poisoning and deaths among underage drinkers.

“Young people do not have to die because they consumed too much alcohol,” Carmichael said. “This bill will save lives.”

The bill passed the Senate last year. The House passed it this session.

Supporters said the bill was not meant to encourage underage drinking, but to acknowledge that it exists and avoid preventable emergencies among high school and college students.

It overcame opposition from lawmakers who wanted provisions regarding parental notification and punishments for repeat offenders.

Rep. John Whitmer, who introduced an amendment that fell short in the House, wants to add parental notification to the law in next year’s session.

“If we’re going to grant amnesty to the kid, at least the parents should be aware of it,” the Wichita Republican said. “Parental notification is an easy one and I think it’ll have bipartisan support.”

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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