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March 10, 2013

Teen spreads word about alcohol immunity law

Lifeline Law intends to save lives by shielding youths against underage drinking charges

(Continued)

COLUMBUS —

Brett was a scholar athlete at Carmel High School. He volunteered his time to help special-needs children. He also was ready to leave in a matter of days to begin his freshman year of college, where he was to major in business.

Brett also had a lot of friends whom he was bidding farewell. A series of parties ended tragically at one of their houses near his home. Friends who initially hesitated to call for help actually were protected by a law that went into effect July 1, a month before Brett’s death.

The Lifeline Law states that someone can call for emergency assistance without being charged themselves with underage drinking.

A group of students from Indiana University and Purdue University had proposed the idea, modeled after immunity laws at their campuses that encourage students to report emergencies, said Whitney Moorman, State Sen. Jim Merritt’s press secretary. She said no public immunity existed before the Lifeline Law. Underage drinking typically is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The Lifeline Law was written by state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who will be among the speakers Monday.

“The [new] law recognizes that kids will make mistakes,” Norman Finbloom said. “What we’re asking people is to please not compound a mistake by risking the loss of someone’s life.”

Tabler said he made sure to invite to the presentation Brett’s soccer buddies and others who knew him well. He expects a crowd of at least 65 but is hoping for 200. Tabler hopes parents attend so they can take steps to help their children make decisions that keep them safe.

Faster action might not have saved Brett’s life, Norman Finbloom recognizes. But Finbloom feels at least it would have given his son a better chance of survival, despite a poor decision on Brett’s part to drink so much that he suffered alcohol poisoning and lost consciousness.

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