Rivers’ Law

At what point in life does a child have to take responsibility for their own actions? At what age does parenting have to give way to personal progress? Is the age of 21 a magic number?

In the State of Mississippi, the age of majority is 21, which means you are considered a minor, legally, until the day you turn 21 years old. Many states have set the age of majority at 18, but a seemingly growing number of members in the younger generation are choosing to put-off taking on the responsibilities of adulthood until later in life.  There have been countless debates across the country concerning the maturity level of today’s youth(see the blaming of Millennials for EVERYTHING)  and the age of majority’s value in laws such as MS HB1089.

Mississippi House Bill 1089, better known as “Rivers’ Law” or the more formal title “The Rivers McGraw Act”, passed the House unanimously almost a month ago, and now the bill awaits passage in the Senate. The proposed law would require the parents/guardians be contacted and consent to the release of anyone arrested for DUI or drug charges, if the offender is under the age of 21. In the bill, the proposed time that the authorities could hold someone started as an engorged 48-hours, but the bill has been fine-tuned to allow for a more expedient process that must take place within 8 hours of arrest.

Some have questioned the need for a new law in this vein, and others have asked why something like this wasn’t already in place. The law was proposed following an incident last fall involving former Ole Miss student Rivers McGraw. Rivers had a history of problems with addiction and had accrued 3 DUI arrests at the time or his death. Rivers’ first DUI was adjudicated, which kept it off his record if he could keep his nose clean, but when he picked up another DUI arrest, it put his earlier adjudication at risk. His family was planning to contest his 2nd DUI arrest because the arresting officers didn’t follow proper procedure, but in Rivers’ mind, his 3rd arrest for DUI surely meant he would be headed for a prison cell. Instead of facing the prospect of prison, Rivers’ sent his mom a final text and took his own life. Before his mom could even get to her son in Oxford, the news of her son’s death had made its way onto social media.

Rivers’ mom maintains that her son wasn’t going to jail for his 3rd DUI arrest, but she believes Rivers’ thought he was headed for the penitentiary and chose suicide over the risk of becoming a felon. Rivers’ former classmates and friends at Ole Miss are holding a rally today(Thursday March 2nd) at 2:00 PM in the Lyceum, hoping to show support for the passage of the bill, so that no mother has to bury her child because of criminalization and substance abuse. She believes that if she had been notified when Rivers was arrested, she could have kept him from taking such a drastic action, resulting in his untimely death. (UPDATE: It appears that Senator Sean Tindell(MS Senate District 49) has amended the bill with a “reverse repealer” that essentially kills the bill in the Senate(or calls for a conference, at best). The rally attendees in Oxford this afternoon will now have more reason to pressure their Senators to remove the “reverse repealer” and pass Rivers’ Law”.