Education Resources

The Indiana Lifeline Law

Protecting those who make the call.

What does the Indiana Lifeline Law do?

Indiana and some other states have laws that protect people under 21 from prosecution for certain alcohol-related offenses if they call for help in a medical emergency, call to report a crime, or have been the victim of a sexual assault. In order to be protected, you need to do four things to demonstrate that you’re acting in good faith:

Call for help.1

Call for help.

Make the call. The consequences of not doing so can be devastating. The Lifeline Law protects you if you are requesting medical attention for someone having a health emergency, reporting a crime, or if you are the victim of sexual assault.
Provide information.2

Provide information.

The 911 operator will need information about the condition of person you’re calling for. You are also expected to give your full name in order to be eligible for protection under the Lifeline Law.
Stay with the person.3

Stay with the person.

If you are calling for someone else, you must remain with that person until first responders arrive. If you are reporting a crime or have been the victim of a sexual assault, wait for police to arrive if it is safe to do so.
Follow instructions.4

Follow instructions.

In a medical emergency, the 911 operator may give you instructions on how to assist until paramedics arrive. Also, to be protected under the Lifeline law you must follow the instructions of police and first responders once they arrive.


What does the Indiana Lifeline Law not do?

The Lifeline Law does not grant immunity from crimes like providing alcohol to a minor, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or possessing a controlled substance. It only protects the person or group of people directly involved in caring for someone in a medical emergency.

The decision to make arrests or issue citations for other crimes is up to the officers that respond. Many real-world scenarios will involve the grey area of an officer’s or prosecutor’s discretion. Even though the protection offered by the lifeline law is not absolute, consider the alternative of not acting. A fine or arrest is a small price to pay in comparison to someone’s life.


Frequently asked questions

1Who does the Lifeline Law protect?
The Lifeline law grants immunity from prosecution for certain alcohol-related offenses to a person who calls for help in a medical emergency, a person who assists the caller in a medical emergency, a person who calls to report a crime, or a person who is the victim of a sexual assault.

The Lifeline Law creates a special deferral program for people who are arrested after someone calls for help during an alcohol-related health emergency. If you haven’t been convicted of an alcohol-related offense, you might be able to enter into an agreement with the court that will result in the charges being dismissed after a time. If you want to learn more about pretrial diversion programs, please visit the Indiana Criminal Law page.

If you call for help, you can still be arrested for another crime like possession of a controlled substance. However, the Lifeline Law establishes the fact that you called as a mitigating circumstance. A prosecutor or court may take into consideration the fact that you were arrested because you called for help, reduce the severity of a charge against you, or reduce the severity of the penalty imposed.

2What specific crimes does the Lifeline Law grant immunity from?
Minor possession, minor consumption, minor transport, and public intoxication.
3Can the person I'm calling for be arrested?
It is possible that he or she could be arrested and charged with a crime – that decision is up to the officers who respond.

However, the Lifeline Law allows for certain alcohol-related charges to be dismissed for people who have no prior alcohol-related convictions. These charges are the same as those that the caller has immunity from: minor possession, minor consumption, minor transport, and public intoxication.

4Will the person I'm calling for get in academic trouble?
It is possible that he or she could be subject to disciplinary proceedings. However, many colleges and universities are adopting medical amnesty policies to avoid discouraging bystanders from calling for help. Familiarize yourself with your school’s policies. If you’re to the point where you’re concerned enough to consider calling an ambulance for someone, that person is facing health consequences far more severe than anything a school or the legal system can deliver.
5What if I'm not in Indiana?
The Indiana Lifeline Law only applies in Indiana. However, similar laws exist in many states. If you live or attend school outside of Indiana, be sure to familiarize yourself with the laws in your state.


The material in this website is for informational purposes only, and it is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice.