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Student Death Prompts Underage-Drinking Reporting Reform in Utah

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Youths who call for help when underage drinkers get sick from drinking will get leniency — but not a free pass — from the courts under legislation approved by a Utah Senate panel.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported Feb. 22 that the measure approved by the Senate committee is intended to remove a disincentive for seeking medical assistance when a young drinker is in distress. It was prompted by the case of Michael Starks, a freshman at Utah State University who died of an alcohol overdose last year.

Bill sponsor Rep. Christine Johnson said the measure would allow “young people to know that even if they behave in an irresponsible manner, their responsible actions will be taken into consideration by the court.” However, Johnson said a proposal to give youths under age 21 complete amnesty from prosecution if they call for help went “a bit too far.”

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