Jan 252005
Authors: Holly Bianco

A bill known as the "safe-haven drinking bill" would provide a way for underage drinkers to avoid citations if they seek medical attention for an intoxicated minor.

Rep. Angie Paccione, D-Fort Collins, created the proposed bill hoping it will help save lives by protecting people trying to protect their friends. The bill would protect underage drinkers from criminal prosecution if they call 911 or bring an intoxicated friend to the hospital.

"The goal is to prevent any other kids from dying," Paccione said.

Seven Colorado high school or college students have died in the past year from alcohol-related incidents, including CSU sophomore Samantha Spady in September and freshman Bennett Bertoli in December.

Although the bill was introduced last year, it is still being revised.

"We're holding off on introducing the bill to the District Attorney Committee until the law enforcement and judicial branch can be on board with it," Paccione said. "As it is currently written, the DA might have a problem with it and we don't want to create a law that might have a loophole in it so people can get away with doing some serious crimes."

She said people could conceivably use the law, in its current form, to get immunity after committing a more serious crime.

An example of this might include drunk driving or vandalism.

Tyler Bevington, a freshman open-option major, believes the bill is a good idea. Bevington has had friends who have had to go to detox centers because of drinking.

"I think in the case of a real emergency and if they think something is wrong they will use it, especially now that they know they won't get in trouble," Bevington said.

Nick Anzman, senior business management major and resident assistant for Corbett Hall, agreed that this is a good thing for the community.

"Any type of law that increases safety of my residents and people around campus is a good idea," Anzman said. "I have had to call emergency staff and send residents to detox. It's a scary situation seeing one of your own residents in that state."

Some students believe that their friends' health is more important than avoiding punishment.

"If I saw someone passed out I would check to make sure they were breathing, but if they weren't breathing then I would definitely call (911)," Bevington said.

Despite the student deaths last semester, CSU Police Department Capt. Bob Chaffee said his department issues roughly the same number of drinking violations that it has in past years.

The "Safe-Haven Drinking Bill" was modeled after the "safe-haven" law passed in 2000 for unwanted babies. Parents, with this law, can leave their babies at fire stations or hospitals within 72 hours of the child's birth without facing criminal charges.

Josh Metten, vice president of the CSU Young Democrats hopes Paccione's bill will be successful.

"Hopefully this bill will pass and there will be a lot fewer alcohol-related deaths," he said.

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