ASUN, UNLPD in support of alcohol bill

Posted By: Camila Orti

corti@klkntv.com

Student leaders and the UNL Police Department are backing a bill that would give legal immunity to intoxicated minors who seek medical help for themselves or a friend.

It’s never a call you want to make, but it’s one that could save somebody’s life. That’s why Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln is hoping to make it easier for minors to dial 911 in those critical moments. He introduced a bill in January that would grant legal protection to underage drinkers in emergency situations.

“The ultimate goal is to ensure that young people feel as though it is safe and they are able to get essential medical care to friends experiencing an alcohol-related emergency,” Morfeld said.

The bill would protect anybody under the age of 21, but only against a Minor in Possession charge.

“If there’s anything else, use of fake ID, procuring for minors, none of that is actually covered under this,” Morfeld said.

The caller would also have to stay on scene and cooperate with rescue crews and law enforcement. The University of Nebraska and UNL Police say they’re on board. In fact, it was student government leaders like Kevin Knudson who approached Morfeld with the idea.

“It’s going to benefit students because it gives them the option to really go and make that life-saving phone call if they deem necessary,” Knudson said.

The ASUN president says he wants minors to be protected statewide. On campus, UNL Police say they’ve been operating under a similar policy for many years. Assistant Police Chief Charlotte Evans says officers have the discretion to choose whether or not to cite underage drinkers depending on the situation.

“It’s the right policy, it benefits a lot, but it doesn’t impact students as wide as we would like it to,” Knudson said.

Morfeld’s bill is quickly moving through the legislature; it passed the first two rounds of debate unanimously. Only one person spoke in opposition to the bill when it was introduced last month. John Lindsay with the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys says it has to do with a provision not relating to minors making the call.

21 other states already have a law like this in place. The measure will go to final reading next week before it gets sent to the governor.