Virginia GOP: No Incentives To Save A Life
How much of an incentive do teenagers--or any of us, for that matter--need to do the right thing for an obviously suffering or even dying friend?
Last June, two Loudoun County teenagers panicked when their friend drank too much rum, passed out and died. The teens took Peter Cathcart Vold's body to a nearby elementary school parking lot and dumped it there.
Those teenagers are now facing serious charges of concealing a body.
But would they have acted differently if they knew that Virginia law would cut them a break, in effect allowing the state to ignore any underage drinking if teens act as good Samaritans and call 911 on behalf of their endangered friend?
A bill proposed in the House of Delegates in Richmond this month asked Virginia legislators to decide whether it's more important to persuade people to act with compassion for their fellow man or to hold those same people accountable for their own misdeeds. The bill, by Fairfax Democrat Del. Chuck Caputo, would have also given a break to adults who have provided alcohol to underage drinkers if those adults then summoned the police or an ambulance to help any overimbibing teens.
The criminal subcommittee of the House Courts Committee Monday scrapped the bill by a 7-5 vote; the members voted strictly along party lines, with the Republican majority shelving the bill for this year, and Democrats expressing support for the idea.
It's important to note that the leniency proposed under the bill would not have been automatic; rather, judges would be permitted to give teens or adults a break if they had done the right thing and called for help.
Still, the notion of letting off adults who endanger the lives of other people's children by giving them alcohol or hosting drinking parties strikes me as a step way too far. I'm more open to the idea that teenagers, who naturally tend to flee at the prospect of their wayward behavior being discovered by adults, might benefit from a little nudge toward doing the right thing. But again, I'm skeptical: How likely is it that such a law would become common enough knowledge among teenagers that the policy would alter how they handle themselves in a moment of crisis? Not very likely at all, methinks.
The Washington Regional Alcohol Program, an advocacy group that lobbies for tougher anti-drunk driving measures in the area, supported Caputo's bill, though executive director Kurt Erickson acknowledged there are plenty of thoughtful people who could not bring themselves to make this trade-off.
Put me in that category: Yes, judges should have the leeway to reward teens who step forward to save a friend's life, and yes, it is churlish to prosecute with vigor kids whose underage drinking only becomes known to the authorities because they've sought to help a friend. But adults deserve no such break. When this bill comes back, as it will, legislators should separate teens from adults and rewrite the measure to provide an incentive to those who are just learning how to be good citizens, while staying tough on those who ought to know better.
What's your view?
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Posted by: jerryravens | January 28, 2009 11:51 AM
Posted by: jerryravens | January 28, 2009 11:52 AM
Posted by: Jonathan7 | January 28, 2009 11:57 AM
Posted by: NoVAHockey | January 28, 2009 12:56 PM
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