Authorities Remind Unofficial Revelers Of Legal Immunity Policy; Lawmakers Propose Extending Policy
Local authorities are preparing for "Unofficial St. Patrick's Day" on Friday -- the annual drinking holiday celebrated by University of Illinois students. Police acknowledge they can’t stop the holiday, so they're emphasizing safety to students.
While thousands of dollars are collected in tickets for underage drinking each year, law enforcement is stressing that calling 911 for a friend who's had too much won't get you in trouble.
"We don't write them city ordinance violations, we don't take people to jail for that," said Champaign Police lieutenant Jim Clark. "We want them to call us if there's a medical emergency, we want them to get help."
But that policy isn't applied evenly everywhere; experiences by U of I students aren't even consistent.
A proposal in the General Assembly seeks to change that. The so-called "LifeLine" bill would give legal immunity to underage drinkers who call 911 another underage drinker.
U of I sophomore Molly Bernstein says this could help save more lives like hers.
On New Year's Eve, Bernstein passed out from drinking too much. She says all but one of her friends left her, fearing a citation. The one friend who did stay and call police for help ended up with an underage drinking ticket.
“I was lucky that someone was brave to put aside their fear and make the call that saved my life,” Bernstein said.
Underage drinking tickets are the most common on Unofficial. Weather dependent, officers from the Champaign, Urbana and campus police give out upwards of 150 "minor in possession" tickets each Unofficial. Those hosting parties where minors are in attendance also get in trouble if the party is broken up by police.
Police also remind Unofficial revelers to keep their out-of-town friends in check; about two-thirds of those ticketed on Unofficial are not U of I students.