Underage drinking is a serious problem in America. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving:
- Kids who start drinking young are seven times more likely to be in an alcohol-related crash.
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and about a quarter involve an underage drinking driver.
- One in six teens binge drink. Only 1 in 100 parents believes his or her teen binge drinks.
- Teen alcohol use kills about 4,700 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.
- High school students who use alcohol or other substances are five times more likely to drop out of school.
The consumption of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21 in Minnesota is prohibited; there is, however, an exception for parental permission and supervision.
Effective August 1, 2013, the Minnesota Legislature has provided an exception for underaged drinkers who are trying to aid a drunken friend or themselves by calling 911.
The statute's provisions
A person is not subject to prosecution for underage consumption of alcohol if the person contacts a 911 operator to report that the person or another person is in need of medical assistance for an immediate health or safety concern, provided that the person who initiates contact is the first person to make such a report, provides a name and contact information, remains on the scene until assistance arrives, and cooperates with the authorities at the scene. The person who receives medical assistance shall also be immune from prosecution. This immunity also applies to one or two persons acting in concert with the person initiating contact provided that all the statutory requirements are met.
The statute's background
As stated by one of the statute's sponsors, Rep. Tina Liebling, "This (law) tells young people that when they or a friend get into trouble, that we care more about their life and their health than we do about any punishment they might incur because of that drinking."
This law does not protect underage drinkers from other alcohol-related charges, such as drunken driving.
Criminal laws like this recent one helping underaged drinkers do the right thing in emergency situations may often contain unforeseen complexities, such as the requirement here that the 911 call be the first one to make the report. If you find yourself in this or any situation involving potential criminal liability, consider contacting an attorney experienced in criminal law to protect your rights.