Liias bill to prevent youth alcohol-related deaths clears House

Legislation would allow minors who seek medical assistance for alcohol poisoning to avoid prosecution for a minor in possession charge
Mar 10, 2013

On October 27, 2012, Kenneth D. Hummel who was 18 years old, died early on a Saturday morning on the WSU campus from a lethal amount of alcohol in his blood system.

His fellow students found him unconscious and performed CPR until emergency crews arrived. He was transported to Pullman Regional Hospital where he pronounced dead.

Hummel’s death was a tragic example of a growing trend among your people.

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) there are more than 4,700 annual deaths among underage youth associated with binge drinking. Persons aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States, with more than 90 percent of this alcohol consumed in the form of binge drinks.

“First and foremost we need to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors but we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that underage drinking exists,” said Rep. Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo), sponsor of a new bill to encourage youth to seek medical help when they think a friend might be suffering from alcohol poisoning.  “We want teens to know that when in doubt they should pick up the phone and dial 911.”

House bill 1404 would protect minors who are acting in good faith and seeking medical assistance for a friend who they fear is suffering from the effects of alcohol poisoning.  The bill would exempt them from a Minor In Possession (MIP) charge, a gross misdemeanor offense that is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, or possible jail time of up to 90 days, depending on the circumstances of the charge.

“Saving a life outweighs an MIP charge every time,” said Liias.  “We will still do everything we can to discourage underage drinking but we can’t be with them 24/7 so we need to send the message that, if you do what’s right we will too.”

In 2010, the CDC reports that there were approximately 189,000 emergency rooms visits by persons under age 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

The World Health Organization estimates that in the United States, approximately 50,000 individuals are diagnosed for alcohol poisoning every year resulting in over 900 alcohol poisonings every week.

The measure, which passed the House on Tuesday with bi-partisan support, will now be considered by the Senate after the legislative cut-off next Wednesday.


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