Recent Death on MSU Campus from Likely Alcohol Poisoning Prompts Police Investigation

Per a recent article in the Lansing State Journal, the East Lansing Police Department is investigating the death of an international student from China, who recently died from suspected alcohol poisoning, prior to the commencement of her freshman classes. The decedent was 19-years old, and therefore, a minor under Michigan's drinking law. The police are likely investigating the source, i.e. person or persons who may have provided the alcohol to the student. Given that she could not have lawfully obtained the alcohol, she would have had to obtain it unlawfully from another person. Whether the provider was an adult or a minor, the same law was potentially broken, i.e. providing alcohol to a minor. If a connection can be made between the alcohol specifically provided from a known individual and the student's death, then that person could be charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor causing death. This is a serious felony, which carries a maximum punishment of ten years. Most frequently, minors on campus are furnished alcohol by other students, also most likely minors. The potential charges against another student would be an additional tragedy, given the high likelihood of imprisonment, a felony record, and removal from Michigan State University. If the other individual was also a foreign student, in addition to the punishment suffered under Michigan's criminal justice system, that student could also be facing loss of a student visa and deportation. Given the vast number of minor in possession tickets doled out at MSU, both by University police and by the ELPD, it is clear that there are large numbers of individuals furnishing alcohol to minors. Generally, the police do not investigate and/or do not charge those furnishing the alcohol to the minors. Death of a minor, however, has occasionally led police to seek charges from the Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney's Office against those who furnished the alcohol to the minor. This could include individuals directly handing over alcohol to the minor, as well as those hosting parties where alcohol is readily accessible to all those present, when the residents of the premises know their guests are underage.

Individuals suspected of furnishing alcohol to minors should consult with an attorney before speaking to police investigators.