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Teen Charged After Helping Friend Dying From Alcohol Poisoning

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Michael, 15, was charged with disorderly conduct after calling 911 when his friend, Danny, blacked out from alcohol poisoning. A state law protects someone who calls for help about a person overdosing from drugs, but doesn't apply to kids involved in underage drinking. (Credit: CBS)

Michael, 15, was charged with disorderly conduct after calling 911 when his friend, Danny, blacked out from alcohol poisoning. A state law protects someone who calls for help about a person overdosing from drugs, but doesn’t apply to kids involved in underage drinking. (Credit: CBS)

Mike Puccinelli Mike Puccinelli
Mike Puccinelli serves as a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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(CBS) – Fifteen-year-old Michael thought he was doing the right thing in April of 2012 when he decided to call the police at a house party in order to save his friend’s life, after his friend suffered alcohol poisoning.

“He [the friend] wouldn’t wake up to anything that we were doing, he wasn’t responsive,” the teen told CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli. His friend needed to be flown to Loyola University Medical Center, where he would stay for two days following the incident.

The friend, 16, who has requested to remain anonymous, went into an alcohol-induced coma with a .33 blood alcohol content level after drinking nearly an entire bottle of vodka.

“They [doctors] had never seen such a high blood alcohol content in someone before,” he said.

The greatest pain for Michael’s friend wasn’t from the almost fatal night or the hospital stay. It was when he found out what had happened after his buddies had saved his life.

“I could deal with me being in trouble, but the fact that they got in trouble wasn’t really fair,” he said.

Instead of being applauded for his efforts, Michael was arrested and charged with unlawful possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor after registering a .007 B.A.C. from a half-shot of vodka he had taken two hours earlier.

“I was just in complete shock. I thought it was a joke to be honest,” he said. He was one of only three people to stay with the dying teenager after everyone else had left the party fearing police.

Although Michael prevented a fatality, he says the Dupage County State’s Attorney’s office told him that had his friend died due to drinking, he might have faced manslaughter charges.

Last February, the Illinois General Assembly passed the 911 Good Samaritan Overdose bill, which states, “a person who, in good faith, seeks or obtains emergency medical assistance for someone experiencing an overdose shall not be charged or prosecuted for Class 4 felony possession of a controlled, counterfeit, or look-alike substance”.

As the law stands now, anyone with up to three grams of heroin or cocaine, or morphine has amnesty from authorities; but a teen with alcohol has none. Michael likely would’ve been let go had he had heroin in his pocket instead of alcohol in his system.

“The system’s completely flawed,” he said. “Most kids are drinking and if everyones gonna run and the cops are coming it’s a serious situation and no one’s ever going to get help if they need it.”

Knowing what they know now, everyone involved in the incident would like to see the bill amended to include alcohol so that people like Michael and his friends won’t be charged after doing the right thing.

State Senator Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) was the chief sponsor of the bill, and while he doesn’t support underage drinking, after hearing the teen’s story, he says he will look into the possibility of making a change in the law.

“You’ve brought it to my attention. I think it’s something we should address,” Silverstein said. “We try to save lives, that’s what we do.”

Silverstein did say that under the current Illinois law, police did the right thing in this situation by arresting the teens. Michael was prosecuted in DuPage County.

A year after the incident, the charge of underage drinking was vacated and he plead guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct. He is now under court supervision.

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