Lawmakers passed Indiana’s Lifeline Law last year in an effort to encourage minors to seek medical assistance for their intoxicated friends without fear of prosecution for alcohol-related offenses.
The death of Rachael Fiege, a 19-year-old Indiana University freshman, raises questions about whether the law is fulfilling its goal.
Here are some highlights from today’s program:
- Indiana’s Lifeline Law has some gaps. Currently the law only provides immunity to the caller and not the one receiving the medical attention.
Randy Frykberg, Director of Indiana University’s Student Legal Services, says that creates major problems.
“From a legal perspective, if you’re going to protect lives, then you need to expand the law so that it covers as many lives as possible so what I would urge the biggest flaw that I have is in the case of Ms. Fiege, her friends and the people around here would have had to make a decision. Rachael would not have been covered by the lifeline law. So what I am always concerned with is friends of a high achieving student on scholarship or who’s looking for a plum job will ultimately have to make a decision, will he or she want us to intervene? Because he or she could still very much be arrested.”
- The law does not provide immunity for some crimes including: operating while intoxicated, possession of a controlled substance and providing alcohol to a minor.
“Provided somebody bought the beer, liquor, or whatever that causes this problem in the first place, that person can’t say, ‘oh, I’m safe if I call for help.’ That person says I am potentially a felon if someone has gotten hurt and I am going to have to take that hit if we make the call,” Frykberg explains.
- Police departments can use discretion in cases involving the Lifeline Law.
Laury Flint, Interim Chief of Indiana University Police, says her goal is to keep students safe.
“We take the totality of the situation into account and try to work with the student. Our goal, everyone’s goal at the university is to get students from point A to point B. We want them to safely reach graduation. So I think we have a lot of discretion or leeway in situations. There is the pre-trial diversion program if criminal charges are filed. In lieu of criminal charges we meet weekly to discuss every arrest report, medical issue, things affecting our students and try to come up with the most reasonable and responsible decision.”
Frykberg counters, saying not all police departments have the same policy.
“I wholly agree especially in the case of IUPD context that there is a holistic approach to cases like this. My constituents, the students of IU also know that there are two other police organizations-the Bloomington Police and Indiana State Excise Police and I would say that for any notion that Sen. Merritt or anyone else puts out during this discussion that the police will somehow let this go, my Mondays would be a heck of a lot easier if that were true. If there is a tacit understanding that the police will let it go on things like this, it has yet to alleviate the workload at Student Legal Services.”
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Noon Edition airs Friday at 12 p.m.
Pete Goldsmith, Dean of Students, Indiana University
Brett Highley, Former Student Government President, Purdue University
Randall Frykberg, Director, Student Legal Services, Indiana University
Laury Flint, Interim Chief, Indiana University Police Department