Michigan’s legislators are drafting a bill that would allow inebriated minors to call for medical assistance without fear of being issued a Minor in Possession (MIP) citation.
MIPs can carry fines of up to $300 for a first offender. Multiple offenders can have their driver’s license revoked or restricted and could face the possibility of jail time, with fines of up to $500.
Proponents of the bill argue that these penalties could influence whether underage drinkers who need medical help will seek it.
A similar bill was previously brought before the Michigan legislature in 2003 by Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor).
However, she was unable to obtain enough votes to pass the bill into the law and it was shelved until the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) took interest in it last summer.
Kyle Dysarv, external vice chair of ASMSU, said the group first became involved in bringing a medical amnesty bill to the legislature after learning that Ohio State University had a similar type of law in place in its university judicial system.
“We really liked the idea and we came back and wrote a bill that was passed by our student assembly encouraging our Department of Governmental Affairs to work on that, as well as in the city,” Dysarv said. “In talking with the city, the city couldn’t do much. They said they had to follow state law, and the only way to change it legally was to change the state law.”
ASMSU then contacted Brater about bringing another medical amnesty bill before the state senate. After ASMSU garnered more support for the bill, the senator began the process of drafting the bill.
On Monday, March 16, the Associated Students of NMU (ASNMU) President Hoie Webster signed a resolution voicing official support for the bill.
“People do stupid things when they’re drunk,” he said. “The potential is just as high (in Marquette) as it is anywhere else. We encourage people to be responsible, but the fact is, minors do drink alcohol.
“Unequivocally, we’d rather have a student seek help and live then have to pick up the newspaper and read about someone dying because they were too afraid of getting an MIP to call for help,” he added.
This Wednesday, March 18, members of ASNMU traveled to Lansing to speak with legislators on many issues facing college campuses statewide. The bill is one thing that will be discussed during their trip.
Public Safety currently follows an MIP policy similar to the one being drafted in the state Senate. If a student needs medical help, Public Safety officers do not issue MIPs should the student or a fellow student call for medical assistance.
Captain Russ Kilgren of the Marquette City Police said MIPs are issued by city police depending on the situation.
“I can’t say that 100 percent of the time, you’d be cited,” he said. “If we went somewhere and someone was deathly ill and under the age of 21, first, we’d see that they get medical treatment. Whether or not we would go back and issue them a ticket for an MIP depends on a lot of things. for the most part, not everybody that we come in contact with gets an MIP, but it’s pretty darn close.”
However, Kilgren also said the city police department does not receive many calls in which a minor is intoxicated and in need of medical assistance.
“We very seldom get calls like that,” he said. “But we do take it very seriously. And we do write (tickets for) most people under the age of 21 that have been drinking.”
Dysarv said ASMSU’s goal in eventually having the amnesty bill introduced to the legislature was to ensure more people who need medical help aren’t afraid to ask for it.
“There are . stories of people that are passed out and are left alone,” he said. “We’ve heard stories within the residence halls, in houses. Our mayor was in a ride- along (with East Lansing Police), and a girl was found passed out in the backyard of a house with no one there. That is the issue we are trying to tackle here . (This bill is) something that could benefit every single person, especially college students.”