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underage drinking, 911 law, Wheaton criminal defense lawyerBetween 2008 and 2012, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that there were nine underage alcohol-induced deaths in the state. This number included only alcohol overdoses, and did not consider the potentially hundreds of deaths caused by other means in which alcohol may have played a role, such as drunk-driving auto accidents. The loss of life due to underage drinking is certainly tragic, and Illinois lawmakers are taking measures aimed at preventing future deaths.

State Representative Scott Drury, D-Highwood, sponsored a bill which passed the Illinois House last month, and was recently introduced in the state Senate. The measure would provide a level of legal protection for underage drinkers who call 911 to help a friend in danger of overdrinking. Nearly two dozen other states have enacted similar legislation, sometimes called Good Samaritan 911 laws, and Illinois law currently provides such protection in drug overdose situations.

Inspired by an alcohol-related death of an underage drinker in his district, Drury sees the proposed law as a way to alleviate some of the fear associated with contacting authorities in an emergency situation. It does not condone underage drinking at all, he said. It just recognizes that underage drinking happens and when it happens and people need help, they should get the help. He also indicated that the measure would allow law enforcement to determine if a call was made in good faith, rather than to simply avoid trouble.