Penn State is consistently recognized as one of the top party schools in the country and alcohol consumption is a consistent part of college life here in State College. However, sometimes students drink too much, and friends resist calling for help due to concerns about being cited with an underage drinking violation. But what people don't always know is that Pennsylvania Good Samaritan laws make exceptions for people who call to seek medical assistance for someone experiencing alcohol poisoning.
Firstly, a Good Samaritan exception is written into laws in order to get you to call for help! If a friend, or someone at a party has had too much to drink, please contact emergency medical services to get that person assistance. Underage drinking is often considered just good fun, but people can die from alcohol poisoning and seeking appropriate medical assistance can be absolutely critical to saving a life.
Both Penn State University and Pennsylvania law enforcement have Good Samaritan policies in effect in an attempt to minimize injury and the loss of life in alcohol poisoning cases. In order to qualify for amnesty the following requirements must be followed.
- The only way law enforcement officers became aware of the person's violation is because the person placed a 911 call, or a call to campus safety, police or emergency services, in good faith, based on a reasonable belief and reported that another person was in need of immediate medical attention to prevent death or serious injury.
- The person calling reasonably believed he or she was the first person to call for help.
- The person calling has provided her or her own name to the 911 operator or equivalent campus safety, police or emergency officer.
- The person calling remained with the person needing medial assistance until emergency health care providers arrived and the need for their presence had ended.
Penn State calls this policy its Responsible Action Protocol, and holds the same
requirements called for by Pennsylvania law in order to receive amnesty from University disciplinary actions. This means Penn State will not prosecute students for their own alcohol violations if they are discovered through calling to seek medical assistance for a friend or another student. Any students calling the police or emergency services will be required to attend BASICS, PSU's alcohol education class and the fee will be waived.
Additionally, as of November 2014, Pennsylvania has extended Good Samaritan laws to now include drug overdoses as well as underage drinking violations. Aimed at preventing drug overdoses in Pennsylvania, particularly in regards to heroin use, this new expansion to Pennsylvania law creates immunity from prosecution in many overdose cases. Over the past 5 years, the Pennsylvania Coroners Association has reported that over 3,000 people in Pennsylvania have died from heroin and opioid abuse.
As Pennsylvania Good Samaritan laws apply to someone overdosing, law enforcement is prevented from prosecuting the person who called for help or the person overdosing. Police cannot act on information developed solely in response to the 911 or emergency services call for help. In some situations, Good Samaritan laws do not apply to drug overdoses, and witnesses could still be prosecuted in the case of a death, or if there are quantities of drugs discovered that would ordinarily give rise to drug dealing charges.
In cases of both underage drinking and substance abuse, Pennsylvanians and Penn State students can benefit from these exceptions to Pennsylvania Law. If you or a friend has been charged with an underage drinking or a related offense as a result of calling for help for a person with alcohol poisoning, contact Rehmeyer & Allatt today.