House passes lifeline law expansion, study of sex assaults



By John Sittler

INDIANAPOLIS – The Lifeline Law that gives immunity to intoxicated minors who call 911 could be expanded under a bill that unanimously passed the House on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 227, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, would extend immunity to minors reporting any medical emergency, as well as minors who are reporting – or are victims of – sex crimes.

“It’s not too often you get to pass a bill that actually saves lives,” said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, who sponsored the bill in the House.

The Senate already has passed the bill. “Our laws need to make it clear that when mistakes are made and lives are at risk, calling 911 is a no brainer,” Merritt said.

The bill was amended in the House to create a commission a study to examine the growing problem of sexual assault of minors. Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, authored the amendment and said that one out of every six Hoosier girls are raped or sexually assaulted before graduating high school.

Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, called that number “very, very high.” She said that’s especially because, in her experience, only 10 percent of sexual assaults are actually reported.

“Until we really deal with the sexual assault issue, we’re not going to have a whole society,” Lawson said.

Emergency first responders would also be allowed to carry and administer drugs that temporarily reverse the effects of a narcotic overdose, allowing the victim to be transported to the emergency room.

The bill also gives courts more discretion to be lenient when sentencing minors who were the subject of the emergency call.

Other provisions in SB 227 urge the creation of a study of violent crime in Indiana. Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, said the study is especially needed to confront this growing issue. He said there were eight murders in Marion County alone last Friday.

The bill orders a third study to evaluate sexual violence against children and the impact of new technology – including social media and wireless communications – on crimes against children.

SB 227 now returns to the Senate where House Minority Leader Scott Pelath urged lawmakers to concur with changes made by the House.

John Sittler is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.