The Ins and Outs of the Indiana Lifeline Law

Staff Editorial

In place of this week’s staff editorial, The Butler Collegian staff decided it would be beneficial to give Butler students an in-depth look at the Indiana Lifeline Law, how it works and what it means for students.

In light of the sudden accident that tragically took the life of 19-year-old Rachael Fiege at Indiana University in Bloomington last month, the staff of The Butler Collegian unanimously decided to repurpose this space—usually used to present an opinion about the university—in this issue.

This week, our goal is to present our student readers with a more clear understanding of the Indiana Lifeline Law and the corresponding university policy regarding alcohol.

The Lifeline Law may or may not have been involved in Fiege’s death. She fell down a set of stairs at a house where alcohol was freely available.
Other people in the house realized hours later that she was no longer breathing. They said they knew of the Lifeline Law but did not know she needed medical attention after she fell. Whether Fiege had been drinking has yet to be determined.

Universities across Indiana are using her death to highlight the Indiana Lifeline Law. The Collegian believes the law itself and its implications for Butler University students are widely misunderstood on campus.

The Indiana Lifeline Law was written into the Indiana Code in 2012 as an amendment to Title 7.1, which lays out alcohol and tobacco laws. The full text of Title 7.1 can be found at http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title7.1.

The full text of the Lifeline Law, as well other information about the law, can be found at http://www.indianalifeline.org.
Students should note that Butler’s specific alcohol policy cannot be found on this site. The university’s policy is printed in the student handbook, and the relevant section has been reprinted in this article.

The amended law provides immunity—barring extenuating circumstances—to students who have committed minor alcohol violations like public intoxication and underage drinking if the students request emergency medical assistance for a person who appears to need it.

In addition to requesting help, the student in question must remain with the person in need of medical assistance until emergency teams arrive and comply with police and medical personnel at the scene, including providing any relevant information sought by officers.
The law’s purpose is very clear: to preserve life.

University policy relating to such a situation is also quite clear in the student handbook.

The handbook states: “The primary concern of Butler University in all cases, including those incidents of intoxication and/or alcohol poisoning, is the health and safety of the individuals involved. Students who actively seek medical attention on the behalf of another due to a concern for that person’s intoxicated state and well-being will generally not be charged with a violation of university policy.”

The Collegian encourages students to drink legally and responsibly. Underage drinking, public intoxication and other alcohol abuses are still illegal. If students are caught violating the law or university policy outside the limits of the Lifeline Law–that is, if they have not requested medical assistance—they may still be taken into custody or cited.

But The Collegian urges its readers to take advantage of the Lifeline Law if someone is in need of help. If an individual has become ill or has suffered an injury due to alcohol or alcohol poisoning students should be proactive in seeking emergency assistance.

In those cases, the law is on  the students side.

Do not rely on others to make the call. Do not let fear of punishment be the reason another student dies. And do not wait until the last possible moment, when the student is absolutely sure he or she needs assistance. Because the last possible moment may be too late.

It was for Rachael.

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