Ohio representatives are pursuing a bill that would protect underage drinkers who call for medical assistance, a move some believe would help protect the safety of Ohio State students.
Ohio Rep. Michael Stinziano, D-Columbus, attended an Undergraduate Student Government meeting Tuesday to talk about House Bill 392, also known as the Good Samaritan bill, which he proposed with Ohio Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville.
The proposed bill would protect underage drinkers who seek emergency medical assistance for others by ensuring that even if those who call for help were drinking underage, they wouldn’t face prosecution.
Stinziano said the bill has a long way to go before it becomes a law, but he thinks the law would be beneficial to students in dire situations.
“Part of the goal with this legislation is to educate people on the benefits of the law and how it can help impact our community,” Stinziano said. “Opponents can question the integrity of the bill but we must inform people about how the policies can help students from making more bad choices.”
Critics of the bill have said it could serve as an excuse for underage college students to break the law without facing punishment.
People under the age of 21 are not permitted to buy or consume alcohol in Ohio and face a misdemeanor of the first degree if they violate that law, according to the Ohio Revised Code. A misdemeanor of the first degree can result in up to six months in jail and/or a fine between $500 and $1,000.
Hannah Ranowiecki, an Ohio State third-year in political science and psychology, said after the meeting students would use the law for the right reasons.
“If this bill passes, it could be a good thing for both campus and our students,” Ranowiecki said. “Students who are under 21 will choose whether or not to take the opportunity to drink, and if they are in a bad situation, then this law could really help them.”
Stinziano said the bill has until the end of the year to be voted on, but if it isn’t, the bill would essentially become obsolete and need to be restructured in order to be re-introduced in Ohio’s Congress.
Matt Deptola, senior policy adviser for USG and a fourth-year in public affairs, said USG is supporting the bill.
“We did a study last spring and found 87 percent of students would utilize a Good Samaritan policy,” Deptola said. “Based on this and other trends we found, we thought it was crucial to do our part to try to see if we could get a more firm policy like this on campus.”
Connie Boehm, director of OSU’s Student Wellness Center, said at Tuesday’s meeting, students should keep an eye out for each other in times of need.
“Over the last 30 years, I have (experienced) a lot of horrible moments with students,” Boehm said. “The common theme here is we are all Buckeyes and should support each other and try to keep students as safe as possible.”
Currently, 19 states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Florida, have laws in place that provide limited criminal immunity for the individuals seeking medical assistance for intoxicated friends, according to a release on Stinziano’s website.