TABC Begins New Amnesty Policy for Underage Drinkers

By Cierra Putman
NewsWest 9

It's the one year anniversary of the death of Carson Starkey. The Austin native who died while at College in California from alcohol poisoning because his friends were too scared to call for help.

On Wednesday, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) decided to remember the young man by installing a new amnesty policy that allows underage drinkers to call for help without fear of getting in trouble.

"As you are a youth or a minor, you don't realize drinking too fast is dangerous, too much is too dangerous," Kevin Salas, MCH Director of Emergencies, said.

Each year, that dangerous behavior lands thousands of Texas minors in tons of bad situations. Now the TABC says it won't issue an underage drinking citation if a young person calls for help with alcohol poisoning, sexual assault or a violent crime. One University of Texas of the Permian Basin student is behind the policy.

"I just think anytime a student or a kid can feel confident that they don't have to risk their own," UTPB Senior, Kelby Giesler said. "I guess self getting in trouble or their friends or classmates, I think that's a good thing."

Giesler says no one should have to decide between saving a reputation or a life.

"I couldn't sit there and watch someone maybe die or be hurt from alcohol poisoning or anything like that," Giesler said. "You should always go above and beyond to do whatever you can and help that other person out."

Emergency room staff sees, all too often, how life threatening alcohol poisoning can be and they hope the new policy will give them extra seconds to save lives.

"I believe a lot of the signs and symptoms become vague with the fact that either you're not sure or unaware of the actual severity of the situation," Salas said. "If you're with someone who's lethargic, they're sleepy, tired and want to sleep a lot, I think at that point you need to act immediately."

Salas said he hopes the policy spreads.

"I think it's very important for other communities and other departments to actually look at this policy and know that it is a necessity," he said. "We all want to think that our kids won't drink, but the reality is that some of them do. And when they do, they need to know that we are going to take care of them if the situation becomes out of control," Salas said.

Neither the Odessa nor Midland Police Departments have similar policies or plan to adopt TABC's new practice. But the departments said they look at each underage drinking incident on a case by case before issuing a citation.