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Indiana Attorney General visits to promote new state Lifeline Law

By Nettie Finn
On November 16, 2012

  • Attorney General Greg Zoeller listens to Indiana State Senator Jim Merritt in the Union Building ballroom during Wednesday's press conference, which promoted the Lifeline Law. ASHLEY ISAAC / THE DEPAUW

Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Indiana State Senator Jim Merritt came to DePauw Wednesday to get the word out about the State Enrolled Act 274, better known as the Lifeline Law. Passed last July, the law ensures immunity for those who seek help for alcohol-related medical issues for their peers.
"It's our duty to inform and to educate, and that's why the Attorney General and I are criss-crossing Indiana to talk about the Lifeline Law," Merritt said.
Zoeller and Merritt are touring high school and college campuses to ensure that students know about this law and what it means for them.
"In Indiana government, we do a pretty good job of passing good legislation," Merritt said. "It's getting the word out to the masses. ... that these laws actually exist, that is the problem."
As a student initiated bill, more student leadership is encouraged in ensuring those under the age of 21 understand what this law means for them.
"Student leadership really can make a difference, and this is a great example of it," Zoeller said.
"Now that we've passed this statute, our point in coming back is to talk about the continued need for student leadership in getting the word out," he added.
However, Merritt warns against thinking of this law as a "free pass" for underage drinking. He said the law does not "endorse" underage drinking.
"We do not want to incentivize underage consumption of alcohol, and with this situation, it is not that, but it actually acknowledges the drinking of alcohol by the underage," Merritt said. "We want them to call 911 and know that there might be questions asked, but there will be immunity for the friends if they stay with the ill person."
Merritt added: "The bottom line is they won't get in trouble."
And it seems that many agree this law is positive. The bill received zero opposing votes during its pathway through Indiana legislation.
 And the Lifeline Law has also received overwhelming support on DePauw's campus. Director of Public Safety, Angie Nally, agrees with the law wholeheartedly.
"DePauw practices immunity for students both in the criminals courts and in our internal judicial system if they call for help for someone else," Nally said.
Nally also trusts that students are well aware of this long-standing DePauw policy now turned state law.
"We've had many occasions where students have called and asked for someone to go and check on the welfare of their friends, and fortunately, we have not had a situation where that has not worked in our favor."
Zoeller said he believes this law reaches to the heart of not just a legislative issue, but also a moral issue.
"There should be an education among your friends and your peers to know more about the statute, but also to just support always doing the right thing."

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