My experience in the criminal justice system has taught me that hot button issues in the news often lead to new laws to address public concerns. We have seen this trend of new or modified laws being enacted to deal with both criminal and social issues. One of the newer concerns in Illinois has been underage drinking and adults hosting underage drinking parties. Public concern and other forces have led to the enactment of a social hosting law effective January 1, 2013. The Illinois Social Host Law is codified at 235 ILCS 5/6-16(C) and provides that:
Effective January 1, 2013, Illinois law now states that individuals can be arrested and face criminal charges for simply allowing or permitting individuals under the age of 21 to drink alcohol at their residence or on their property – even if the individual did not directly supply or provide the underage person with alcohol. Therefore, students who host social events are expected to monitor their parties and make sure that underage people are not drinking in their residence, room, or property.
CONSEQUENCES FOR VIOLATIONS
Individuals who violate this law:
- Can be arrested and charged with a Class A Misdemeanor (punishable by court supervision, probation, 1-364 days in jail)
- Face fines of at least $500.
- Individual hosts can be charged with a Class 4 Felony if the violation directly or indirectly results in great bodily harm or death to any person. Under Illinois law, penalties for a Class 4 Felony may include:
- Felony convictions and incarceration for 1-3 years
- Fines of up to $25,000
SAFE HARBOR PROVISION
The new law contains a “safe harbor” (or amnesty) provision that protects individuals who host social events from criminal liability if:
- The party host requests assistance from the police to either:
- Remove any person who refuses to abide by the party host’s demand to stop drinking, or
- Terminate the gathering, because the party host has been unable to prevent persons under the age of 21 years from consuming alcohol, despite having taken all reasonable steps to do so; AND
- The party host contacts the police for help before any other person makes a formal complaint to law enforcement.
Thus, parents and others are strongly encouraged to contact the police immediately if they are unable to control guests at their party or if guests refuse to comply with the host’s attempts to prevent underage drinking.
STATE VS. LOCAL CHARGES
Many municipalities have adopted ordinances with language similar to the new Illinois law with the important difference being that ordinances are considered fine only offenses that do not involve the possibility of jail time, but can still mar a person’s criminal record wit ha conviction.
WHO IS THIS LAW TARGETING?
This new law mainly targets parents who have been hosting parties in their homes or yards providing their underaged children and friends with alcohol. Many parents believe this is a good philosophy because it keeps the drinking under their supervision, but the law views it differently. Often young people leave these parties and get a DUI or cause an alcohol related offense or an incident such as the national story concerning student hazing (See: http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/05/12/high.school.hazing/ ) There have been other widely publicized incidents on college campuses across the country where injuries and even deaths have occurred due to the overconsumption of alcohol by underaged. students. If you face one of these tickets as a parent or other person hosting a party contact the Richard Albanese Law office at (312) 882-1973 for a free consultation regarding the potential defenses to your case.