Underage drinking: Safety trumps NJ law

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:53

    TRENTON — The stories are repeated year after year usually on college campuses across the country: A young, bright student, new to college, is found dead after a party. The cause: acute alcohol poisoning. Now, New Jersey lawmakers have approved a measure that puts safety above the law when it comes to underage drinking. The bill, which was approved by both the Senate and Assembly last week, grants immunity to anyone under 21 who has been drinking if that person calls police when another teen drinks too much and needs medical help. Neither the person who called nor the person sickened by alcohol would be prosecuted. Last November, South Brunswick resident Brett Griffin, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Delaware, died from alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party. In 2007, Rider University freshman Gary DeVercelly, Jr., 18, from California, was found passed out by police 50 minutes after falling unconscious. He was in cardiac arrest and subsequently died. He reportedly had drank 3/4 of a bottle of vodka in 15 minutes. The bill is modeled after Colorado’s statute providing immunity for underage possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages if the underage person calls for medical assistance under the conditions set forth in the bill. This bill now heads to Governor Jon S. Corzine to sign into law. Proponents of the bill say it will help save lives since those underage drinkers will not be afraid to call for help when needed.