New Law Grants Immunity to Underage Drinkers Who Call 911 for Assistance
House Bill 1336, which recently went into effect, creates an important protection for those who commit certain alcohol-related offenses in Illinois. Similar to a law enacted a few years ago for drug overdoses, House Bill 1336 grants immunity from prosecution to underage drinkers who call 911 to get medical assistance for those who have consumed too much alcohol. Individuals for whom assistance was sought are also immune from prosecution. The new provisions, which are similar to those in place in more than 30 other states, were passed in an effort to prevent fatal cases of alcohol poisoning due to fear of legal repercussions.
According to the new amendments, law enforcement officials can no longer charge or take a person into custody for involvement in an alcohol-related offense if the officer had contact with that individual because he or she either:
- Requested emergency medical assistance for a person who reasonably appeared to be in need of such assistance due to alcohol consumption; or
- Acted with another person who requested medical assistance for someone who appeared to be in need of medical aid due to inebriation.
Additionally, a person who calls for medical assistance in a situation of suspected alcohol poisoning must have satisfied additional requirements, including that he or she:
- Provided his or her full name and other relevant information to the officer;
- Remained at the scene with the person who required medical assistance until emergency personnel arrived; and
- Cooperated with emergency personnel and law enforcement officers.
An officer must consider all of the facts and circumstances before making the determination as to whether the above requirements are met.
A person who satisfies all these requirements will be immune from criminal liability for the offenses of purchasing, accepting delivery of, or possessing alcohol when under the age of 21. Additionally, such an individual cannot be charged or detained for violating the prohibition against alcohol consumption for people aged 21 years and under. However, the new law does not apply to more than three people acting together for a single occurrence.
The new law also states that whether an officer complied with or failed to comply with the provision, a person cannot initiate a lawsuit against him or her unless the officer exhibited willful or wanton misconduct.
Being charged with underage drinking can have far-reaching consequences for minors, including the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license. Fortunately, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to explain your legal options and build a defense, and may even be able to get the charges reduced. If you or your child has been arrested for or charged with an alcohol-related offense, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, please contact the skilled Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for a free consultation.