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Michigan's Medical Amnesty Law

Under Michigan law, amnesty exists under MCL 436.1703 for any minor seeking emergency medical treatment--such as treatment for alcohol poisoning--for himself or another minor. This means that the minor seeking treatment cannot be punished under the law prohibiting persons under 21 for possessing, consuming, or buying alcohol. However, the law does not provide amnesty for more serious crimes such as drunk driving. The law is also limited to those minors that initiate contact with emergency medical services or police. Intoxicated minors who are discovered by police and determined to be in need of medical services may still be punished for having a bodily alcohol content because the contact was not initiated by the minor. Finally, the law also provides similar amnesty to minors who have consumed alcohol and are seeking medical examination and treatment for sexual assault, and also to others accompanying the assaulted minor.

Medical amnesty laws have been growing in popularity throughout the United States as a method for encouraging young people to seek necessary medical treatment during alcohol-related incidents. Surveys show that the fear of being charged with a Minor in Possession (MIP) and the consequences thereof may prevent a minor from calling 911 on behalf of someone in need of treatment from alcohol poisoning. This hesitance to call 911 can have tragic consequences.

This fear is not necessarily unfounded. In 2012, an Illinois teen named Michael called 911 during a party after- his friend passed out from drinking and would not respond to attempts to wake him. Although Michael's actions saved his friend's life--the friend had a BAC of .33, but recovered after a lengthy hospital stay--Michael was charged with an MIP. As a reward for his good Samaritan act, Michael and his parents were forced to spend valuable time and money fighting an MIP charge so that Michael would not face the consequences of an MIP conviction. While Michael's charge was eventually lowered to disorderly conduct, he was forced to undergo court probation and pay court costs--all because he dialed 911 when a friend was in danger.

The Michigan medical amnesty law is designed to remove this fear of legal consequences for minors seeking emergency medical help. It reflects the belief that it is more important to help the intoxicated or injured person than to punish minors for alcohol consumption. By removing the potential punishment for drinking underage, legislators hope that when faced with a health-related emergency, minors will seek emergency medical help.

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