Law Enforcement Liability
After reviewing the three opening cases, take this one crucial point with you. If you are an arresting or a detentions officer, and you believe that a subject is in or at risk for acute alcohol withdrawal, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. The consequences of acute alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, even during hospitalization. Incarceration results in an immediate cessation of alcohol, which any inmate may have become physically addicted to. If you believe that a subject may go into seizures or delirium tremens, inform the jail’s medical staff right away. Departments and facilities have a duty to educate staff about DT. Failure by a law enforcement officer to act immediately and appropriately to any medical emergency can be considered as negligence or deliberate indifference in a court of law.
Additional Safety Concerns
There are additional safety concerns related to inmates who are withdrawing from alcohol. Seizures and disorientation increase the inmate’s risk for falls. Alcohol dependent individuals are at a greater risk for suicide than the general population. This is especially true for inmates who are withdrawing from alcohol. Pay special attention to a possible increased suicide potential in these individuals.
Ideally, any individual at risk for acute alcohol withdrawal should be placed in the infirmary or another special observation unit where ongoing assessment can be performed and staff backup is at the ready.