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Lifeline Law Introduced in State House

It’s called a “9-11 Lifeline Law.” Texas, along with other states, passed a version in 2011. The law allows minors to call 9-11 if they see symptoms of alcohol poisoning in a peer, without fear of getting arrested for the good deed.

Lifeline Laws were enacted after several fraternity members at a party (in California) failed to report the obvious trouble one of their members was in after drinking half a fifth of rum, beer and an unknown quantity of other alcoholic beverages. The young man, Carson Starkey (from Austin) eventually died from alcohol poisoning. His frat brothers feared getting arrested for underage drinking and that was the reason they didn’t call for help.

We now have a Lifeline Law in Texas that prevents prosecution of minors who call for help when a peer has overdosed on alcohol.

Last month, a bill was introduced in the Texas State House to extend this “good Samaritan” law to substances other than alcohol. The purpose is the same, to assure those who know they are breaking the law to set that aside and get help for a friend in need who has overdosed.

House Bill 1743 would add language to the health code and other laws that create an exception if callers follow a few simple steps. The first is to remain at the scene until healthcare workers arrive. The second is to cooperate with police. They also have to be the first person to call in the incident (preventing a broad “get out of jail free” card to everyone who calls).

The bill was sponsored by Representative Eric Johnson and is now in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee where it may be tabled, recommended, or modified.

In most cases involving an emergency situation, police do not make an arrest – the concern is more about treating the victim than arresting someone who happened to be there. But it turns out that addicts are much more likely (as high as 88 percent more likely) if they know they are protected from arrest.

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