"Lifeline Law" could save lives, but Florida doesn't have one

9 FSU students accused of delaying call for help

In the wake of a deadly hazing case on the campus of Florida State University, Tallahassee Police say they’re charging nine FSU students with a felony, accusing them of encouraging underage drinking, and for hesitating to call 911 when Andrew Coffey, 20, was found the next morning after a party without a pulse.

It’s not yet clear if the students hesitated to call 911 out of fear of repercussion.

If that did play a factor in their decisions, there’s a big change the state of Florida could make to encourage more people to call 911 during a medical emergency.

Sometimes called “Lifeline Laws,” states across the country are promising immunity from legal punishment if someone calls 911 during a health emergency, even if that emergency was caused by illegal activity, such as underage drinking on a college campus.

Over half the states in the country have laws of this nature, or are in the process of passing them, but Florida is not one of those states.

However, the University of South Florida, and other colleges across the county, have passed new policies with this sentiment in mind.

“We know young people are going to experiment with alcohol and drugs, we know sometimes that’s going to put them in life-threatening situations and we wanted to find ways to make sure students were getting help,” explains Danielle McDonald, an Assistant Vice President and the Dean of Students at USF in Tampa.

McDonald says it sends an important message to students and their families.

“We're a community that’s more concerned with the safety and the health and welfare of our students as opposed to whether people get in trouble or not,” McDonald tells ABC Action News.

The USF policy was implemented in 2013, and McDonald says students take advantage of it, and also importantly, she says, most students who use it the first time never become repeat offenders.

“I’m very proud of this policy. I know that it has saved lives and I think that's the most important thing,” says McDonald, who thinks college students across the state might benefit from a state-wide “Lifeline Law” or a “Medical Amnesty policy,” as USF puts it.

Three of the FSU students charged with felonies from the fraternity party death hail from the Tampa Bay Area.

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