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Can seeking medical amnesty protect you from charges?

One of the major risks of underage drinking is alcohol poisoning. Unlike many seasoned drinkers with years of imbibing under their belts, underage drinkers do not realize their limitations when it comes to illegal consumption of alcohol.

Because they are not supposed to be in possession of alcohol at all, underage drinkers may "chug" their drinks surreptitiously to avoid detection by police, parents or other authorities. This can cause alcohol levels to rise dangerously fast and threaten the young drinkers' lives.

What should the under-21 crowd do if they suspect that a friend has drunk too much alcohol? There can be very little difference between drinking so much that one passes out and drinking so much that one never wakes up. To be a good friend, be on the lookout for possible alcohol poisoning. Symptoms may include:

-- The person is unresponsive.

-- He or she is breathing shallowly or irregularly, 10 or fewer breaths a minute.

-- They vomit while they are passed out.

-- Their heart rate slows.

-- The eyes roll back until only the whites are visible.

-- The fingers or lips turn blue or very pale.

If you suspect a friend has alcohol poisoning, seeking medical help is imperative if they are to survive. Both the one seeking the assistance and the person for whom it is sought can have medical amnesty in the event of drug and alcohol overdoses.

Under Georgia's Medical Amnesty Law, immunity from being arrested, charged or prosecuted for events that only occurred because the person sought medical assistance can be invoked. However, the concept is determined on a case-by-case basis, so if you called 911 to get help for your intoxicated roommate and wind up arrested for possessing alcohol as a minor, you may need to retain a criminal defense attorney to represent you in court.

Source: University Health Center, "Medical Amnesty," accessed Sep. 30, 2016