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Lifeline Law expansion clears Senate committee

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Indiana’s Lifeline Law that provides immunity for minors who report dangerous underage intoxication would expand to cover reporting of any medical crisis, sexual assault or crime if a bill that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday is enacted.

Senate Bill 227  addresses gaps in the Lifeline Law, according to bill author Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis. Merritt said that in visits to college campuses around the state, students told him, for instance, that they weren’t sure if they or a victim would be immune from criminal prosecution if a drug overdose or other medical emergency was reported.

“Kids make mistakes,” Merritt told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Sometimes the law has to be gray, but it can’t have mental hurdles for these individuals who are under 21 years old to call 911 and save a life.”

The panel moved the bill to the full Senate by a 9-0 vote.

Indiana University Student Association vice president Christopher Kauffman testified that the Lifeline Law enacted in 2011 had saved lives on campus, including students who received medical assistance for near-lethal blood-alcohol contents. He recited instances in which emergency responders said 15 minutes was the difference between life and death.  

Students are made aware of the law during orientation and it’s reinforced institutionally, Kauffman said. Nonetheless, many students who encounter situations where they can help someone in crisis still ask themselves, “If I call, will I get in trouble?”

“Our ultimate goal is to make sure no more students die from their actions or those of their peers,” he told the committee.

By a vote of 6-3, the committee also advanced Senate Bill 59, which would permit guardians to file dissolution of marriage actions in some cases. Proponents, including Sen. Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, said the bill is needed in such instances as when both spouses have become incapacitated and no one may be allowed to file a divorce that is in the couple’s best interest.

Senators opposed to the bill, including Rep. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, objected because he said it could lead to financial interests trumping what’s in the best interests of a couple.

The committee, by a 9-0 vote, also advanced Merritt’s Senate Bill 305, which would reclassify synthetic drugs commonly referred to as “Spice” or bath salts as Schedule I controlled substances.



 

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  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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