Good Samaritan alcohol policy has potential to save students? lives


When people under 21 in South Da­kota find themselves with a danger­ously intoxicated friend, what do they do? Do they call 911 to seek medical help? Or do they choose to wait it out and hope for the best? It seems like the decision should be clear. If there is even a slight chance that your friend will die, you should seek help, right? RIGHT?!

Unfortunately, this decision is not so clear for most of our underage resi­dents, as calling 911 comes with a dif­ferent set of consequences as well. When 911 is called in Brookings for a medical situation where an ambulance is needed, the police will generally ac­company the paramedics. When the police encounter the underage con­sumers of alcohol, they encounter a di­rect violation of state law, namely, that it is illegal for persons under the age of 21 to consume alcoholic beverages. While officers do have the discretion to cite the violation or not, they often choose to do so, even if the people in question were sincerely trying to help their friends.

What exactly are the consequences of receiving a minor consumption in Brookings County? Typically, they are a class 2 misdemeanor, a $120 or $240 fine, a court appearance, alcohol classes and associated tuition, a permanently tarnished criminal record and jail time if there is a previous offense

Clearly, underagers have a lot to con­sider when deciding whether or not to call 911, and unfortunately, most of it has nothing to do with safety. When one person is intoxicated to the point that it is difficult to breathe, usually those around him or her have joined in the festivities as well. If they have cel­ebrated too much, it is often difficult for them to look at the situation objectively and realize that the cost of a minor con­sumption pales in comparison to the value of their friends’ lives.

As a CA for three semesters in Young Hall, I regularly heard of situations where students had driven an intoxicat­ed friend to a hospital the night before while they themselves were intoxicated to avoid getting minors (interestingly enough, they didn’t come and tell their CA about it until after the fact). In oth­er cases, people chose to “wait it out.” If they thought their friend was bad-off enough, they sometimes put their friend out in the hall and called 911 for him or her and then left the person ly­ing on the floor to avoid prosecution for themselves.

Why would we want a law that en­courages people to 1) ignore serious medical situations 2) leave seriously ill people lying alone in the hall and 3) drive drunk? To combat this situation, Students’ Association Senator Jameson Berreth and myself, along with a num­ber of other senators and students, have been contacting state-wide interest groups and legislators since last Octo­ber about introducing a Good Samari­tan Alcohol bill into the South Dakota Legislature. With the help of Sen. Larry Tidemann (R-Brookings), the bill was introduced a little over a week ago as Senate Bill 141. The proposed law is very similar to a law which was passed in North Dakota a couple years ago, and basically states that people can­not be arrested or prosecuted for alco­hol related offenses when they contact emergency assistance, or are the person in need of assistance. If you would like to read the actual bill and check up on its status, it can be found on the SD Legislative Council website at

If this bill passes, those under 21 will no longer have to fear prosecution for calling 911 for alcohol related emergen­cy medical help. Fortunately, we have Rep. Gene Abdallah, R- Sioux Falls, the former head of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, and Rep. Craig Ties­zen, R- Rapid City, the former head of the Rapid City Police Department co-sponsoring the bill, which should help it pass. However, it still needs to pass through the Senate Judicial Committee, the Senate floor, and the House.

The next step will take place at 7:45 a.m. Feb. 17 when we will testify in de­fense of the bill in front of the Judicial Committee in Pierre, which brings me to my reason for writing this article. If you, our reader, know of any of the specific cases when this law would have saved a life, we would love to hear from you! Even if you know of a news story or an incident that you weren’t directly connected to &- it will all help! We will need to bring convincing evi­dence before the committee if this is to pass, and to do this we need your help! If you think you can help, free to call my cell phone at 507-220-0506 or send me an email at [email protected]. Thank you for your help, and stay tuned!

Mark York is a SA senator and is run­ning for SA president. Reach him at