By August Steigmeyer
Contrary to popular belief, underage students who seek help through the Good Samaritan Policy may face punishment under Ohio law. When someone contacts Campus Safety with concerns about an intoxicated student, Kenyon officers will respond immediately, assess the students’ health and, if necessary, call for an emergency medical services (EMS) squad. When a call goes out to any emergency service in Ohio, the dispatch notifies the Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff will usually “follow up” on such a call, according to Captain David Shaffer of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and if the situation warrants it, he will issue a citation will be issued for underage drinking.
“The Good Samaritan thing is completely separate from the law. … We would recognize that there are issues with the Good Samaritan thing, but our stance is that if they violate the law, they violate the law,” Shaffer said, “So our guys are generally going to issue a citation or a summons for underage consumption.”
The student’s intoxication level does not affect the likelihood of citation, according to Shaffer. If the student has been drinking and is underage, regardless of blood alcohol content, he is subject to the law. Sometimes the citation is given in the hospital, but often the Sheriff’s Office will issue a summons after the patient is released from medical care, Shaffer said.
A squad transported three students to the hospital so far this year, and one of those incidents resulted in a citation. This kind of occurrence is infrequent, however. Between Aug. 1, 2010 and June 1, 2011, two underage drinking citations were issued to students after they were transported to the hospital, according to Shaffer. In one instance, a student’s 17-year-old sibling was cited and the case was passed to the Juvenile Prosecutor’s Office. The other incident involved a 21-year-old who was arrested for disorderly conduct after allegedly punching a nurse in the emergency room.
Kenyon cannot control the Sheriff’s actions and the Good Samaritan policy is not above the law, according to Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper. “The Good Samaritan policy is a Kenyon policy; it’s not state law because the squad has to get involved,” he said. “911 for this county … covers both law enforcement and fire/EMS. So when that call goes out, he can respond.”
Hooper said the threat of punishment could discourage students from using the Policy, but he highly discourages them from trying to transport students on their own. “It could be disastrous, depending on what condition that person is in,” he said. “Is that person that’s driving sober? If they were out drinking together, probably not. So if an accident happens, then this person [might not get] that medical treatment soon enough … and the person driving could be looking at a DUI.”
Avoiding a 911 call does not guarantee that the sheriff will remain uninvolved, according to Shaffer. “Even if they go to the hospital by private vehicle and the hospital gets that they are underage, then the hospital will likely call our office or the city, so it is likely to get reported anyway,” he said.