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Reaching out for Help – Can You be Criminally Charged?

When an emergency happens involving illegal activity, often there is a fear to get help or assistance, due to the concern that the others present will be in trouble. However, recently, Indiana has passed legislation that protects those calling for help for someone who needs assistance from facing criminal consequences in certain circumstances1.

Under what is referred to as the Lifeline Law, in Indiana, if a person requests medical assistance for another in need due to alcohol consumption, even if the person reporting has been drinking and is underage, the person reporting will not be prosecuted.

So, for example, if there are several people at a party who are all age nineteen, and they are consuming alcohol, this is illegal, as they are consuming alcohol underage. However, if one person becomes ill due to alcohol consumption, if a friend calls 911 to seek help, the friend calling will not be criminally prosecuted.

This allows for the friend to call without fearing that they will be in criminal trouble for seeking help for a friend, and protecting a potential victim of alcohol poisoning or worse. Under the law, the person reporting must cooperate and provide relevant information regarding the person needing assistance to emergency responders and law enforcement.

Additionally, a bill has recently been proposed to expand the Lifeline Law to include not only reporting to emergency personnel about alcohol consumption, but also reporting medical emergencies, sex offense victims, or witnessing and reporting a crime. This expansion would clarify the immunity, and allow for reporting of those other types of serious issues, along with alcohol consumption.

The goal of the Lifeline Law in Indiana is to protect reporters and encourage reporting of emergencies that may endanger the life of another. We hope that this blog post has been helpful in exploring the Lifeline Law and its present and future application.

This blog post is not intended as legal advice. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. practices throughout the state of Indiana. This blog post was written by attorney, Jessica Keyes.

  1. See Ind. Code 7.1-5-1-6.5

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