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Illinois legislation would pardon underage drinkers who call 911 to get help

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — The Illinois Legislature is considering a bill that would grant amnesty to underage drinkers who call 911 to get help.

Democratic state Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood is sponsoring the measure. It passed the House earlier this month and has been introduced in the Senate.

The Chicago Tribune reports (http://trib.in/1MAEvNA ) that the bill would provide amnesty to the person in need of medical help and the person who called 911 on their behalf. The legislation would also grant police officers the discretion to determine whether amnesty is appropriate to the situation.

Drury told the newspaper a story about parents in his district who told him about an instance where their teenage drank too much.

"People were reluctant to call for help, but someone did. And then both the teenager and the friend who called ended up getting a citation for the situation," Drury said. "The parents felt that was wrong, because we ought to be trying to protect kids rather than deter them from seeking medical help."

The Illinois Department of Public Health reports that from 2008 to 2012 there were nine alcohol induced deaths among those under 21.

Those were alcohol overdose cases only, and the numbers do not include deaths in which alcohol was a contributing factor, such as in fatal car crashes.

Amnesty laws have been spreading across the nation over the past decade. Roughly two dozen other states have enacted similar legislation in recent years.

Cornell University instituted an amnesty policy in 2002 and a university study in 2006 suggested the policy works.

The study found that 19 percent of Cornell students reported that they had been in a situation when they had considered calling 911 for someone they believed was suffering from alcohol poisoning prior to the policy's implementation, but only 4 percent actually called for help. The number of calls for medical help jumped by more than 20 percent two years after the policy was implemented.

Drury says there is "a difference between being soft on crime and being smart on policy."


The bill is HB1336.

Online: http://www.ilga.gov


Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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