Medical Amnesty Legislation in New Jersey
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on June 9th, 2009
The recent tragic deaths of two young people from excessive drinking at New Jersey colleges have prompted action in the New Jersey Legislature. Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini introduced a bill known as the 911 Legislation or Lifeline Legislation, which provides amnesty for minors who seek medical attention for themselves or friends who have become dangerously intoxicated.
Statistics from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – New Jersey (NCADD-NJ) reveal the dangerous risks that young people take by binge drinking: Almost 39 percent of New Jersey seventh and eighth grade students say that they have consumed alcohol. Almost 80 percent of New Jersey high school students admit to consuming alcohol at least once. What’s more, minors who consume alcohol tend to consume in much greater quantities than adults: Minors consume on average five drinks while adults consume only two or three drinks while drinking.
Medical amnesty policies have been enacted by many local colleges including the University of Pennsylvania medical amnesty policy and Lehigh University medical amnesty policy. While these colleges’ medical amnesty policies protect students from repercussions under university codes of conduct, the medical amnesty provisions do not prevent law enforcement from charging students with violations of Pennsylvania laws related to underage drinking.
For this reason, some states have decided to enact medical amnesty legislation to shield from prosecution underage minors who seek medical attention for themselves or a friend during an alcohol-related emergency. When introducing the 911 Legislation to the New Jersey Legislature this year, Assemblywoman Angelini noted that the bill does not condone underage drinking, but encourages minors and young adults to make a life-saving decision during the critical period when a dangerously intoxicated youth can be saved with medical intervention. After approval from the New Jersey Assembly in late May, the 911 Legislation awaits hearing in the New Jersey Senate.