UGA Protects Students From Underage Possession Arrests
By: Jennings Brooks
ATHENS, Ga -- The number of underage alcohol possession arrests at the University of Georgia has decreased by about 54 percent in the past four years. According to police Capt. Adam Fouche of the University of Georgia Police Department, the enactment of Georgia’s Medical Amnesty Law has impacted the number of underage alcohol and drug related arrests.
Though Georgia’s Medical Amnesty Law was ratified in April of 2014, it wasn’t until 2015 that the shift from arrests to minor in possession (MIP) citations for underage offenses was implemented. According to Fouche, it is anticipated that the number of reported possession offenses will vary annually, however after 2015, the amount of arrests decreased due to an increase in MIP citations.
In relation, the amount of alcohol possession related ex-cleared cases increased. Capt. Fouche said cases are ex-cleared when they have developed sufficient evidence to prosecute an offender yet choose not to press charges due to Medical Amnesty Law. According to UGAPD crime statistics, from 2014 to 2015, there was a 60 percent increase in alcohol possession ex-cleared cases.
In a follow-up email to an in-class press conference, Capt. Fouche said the philosophy of the UGA Police regarding underage drinking is to make sure students are being responsible in a safe environment. The first priority to any response call would be to “mitigate any threats to life.”
Bennett Walker, a freshman living in Brumby Hall at UGA, said she was faced with the decision of whether to call the police for an unresponsive girl on the floor of the communal bathroom at 3 a.m. earlier this year.
According to Walker, the Brumby Police arrived first to evaluate the situation before deciding to call emergency medical services.
Walker said that despite the new Medical Amnesty Law, “We care more about protecting [students] from the police than from their health and their safety.” She explained students are less inclined to call for help because they don’t want to get their friends in trouble with law enforcement.
University of Georgia sophomore Leah Touchstone received medical amnesty her freshman year after she reported being roofied on a date event. Police on the scene found her fake ID, resulting in Touchstone receiving 6 months of sober probation.
Touchstone said she had not been aware of Georgia’s Medical Amnesty Law or UGA’s Responsible Action Protocol that shields those needing medical attention from sanctions of the law, yet knew of the idea in general.
Touchstone said, “I understand that I broke the law by drinking and having a fake ID, so I cannot blame them and victimize myself for this situation whatsoever.”
According to Touchstone, if a similar situation happened to a friend, she wouldn’t hesitate to call emergency medical services.