Good Samaritan Alcohol Resolution passes 27-1

Tony Gorder

Tony GorderEditor-in-Chief

Students’ Association passed a resolution supporting a statewide “Good Samaritan” alcohol law that would exempt people under 21 from criminal punishment if they contact authorities to help another.

The resolution, which passed 27-1 at the Sept. 7 SA meeting, states that SA highly recommends the Student Federation, a student government body made up of representatives from schools that fall under the Board of Regents, to pursue the policy into South Dakota state law.

The idea behind the law is that students who are underage and drinking do not always contact authorities if a friend needs medical attention for alcohol poisoning for fear of punishment for underage drinking. Good Samaritan policies exempt the underage from criminal prosecution, thus making it more likely authorities would be contacted in an alcohol-related emergency.

“The idea of this policy is not to get minors out of criminal offenses; it is to encourage minors to put the safety of their friends first,” said Mark York, SA senator-at-large, who wrote and sponsored the bill. “This is not a new idea.”

SA pushed for a Good Samaritan policy in 2008. SA senators Brandon Lindstrom and Ryan Stee pushed for and passed a resolution supporting a campus-wide Good Samaritan policy in the spring of 2008, but nothing was codified into campus policy. This resolution is different in that it pushes for a state law.

“The thing that’s on our side is the North Dakota state law,” York said.

North Dakota’s law states individuals under 21 are immune from criminal prosecution if they contact police or medical services to save the life another individual under 21, provided they stay with the individual in need and remain at the scene for authorities. It also exempts the individual in need of medical attention as long the work with law enforcement and emergency services.

“Under current (South Dakota) law, a minor who has consumed even a small amount of alcohol will face a class-2 misdemeanor, a $150 fine, a court hearing, three years with a tarnished criminal record and possible jail time if they seek help for a dangerously intoxicated friend,” York said.

The resolution, while seemingly supported unanimously in spirit, was vocally opposed by Tim Goldhammer. The SA senator-at-large was the lone nay vote for the resolution for language purposes.

“I want clarification,” Goldhammer said after the meeting. “I think it’s something that is good, but it needs to be done carefully … It’s a good policy if implemented correctly.”

Goldhammer said he wanted the resolution to address parents’ concerns and specific issues regarding wording of minors versus those over 18 but under 21. The bill currently only states that minors are protected.

He also expressed concern about the resolution being rushed.

“You speed through things … and don’t have anything to show for it,” Goldhammer said.

York disagreed with Goldhammer’s sentiments.

“I was pretty happy with the wording,” York said. “The exact legal writing isn’t that important.” He added that if the resolution were to make it to legislature, state legal writers would clarify and clean up the language.

The resolution was brought up at a meeting between Student Federation and members of the BOR, including Jack Warner, executive director and chief executive officer of the BOR.

An immediate decision was not asked of the Student Federation.

“We didn’t ask them to take a stance either way on it,” SA President Brett Monson said. “We just wanted to let them know this an issue that is going to come up.”

Monson said this resolution only has students’ safety in mind and said the regents “realize it’s something we’re doing to benefit students.”

Monson hopes to make a push for getting a bill introduced in the South Dakota State Senate, but said this may be a stepping stone for coming years if a bill does not pass.

“We realize certain legislation takes time,” Monson said.