Stahl Cowen Crowley Addis LLC | Teenage Parties and Alcohol
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Teenage Parties and Alcohol

During this time of year, our teenagers are enjoying themselves at proms and graduation parties. While we want them to have fun, we also want to keep them safe.  This is difficult to do when alcohol is involved.

It’s important to recognize that teens drink alcohol, and some begin at an early age.  Sixty-four percent (64%) of today’s teenagers have consumed alcohol by the end of high school and twenty-six percent (26%) have done so by eighth grade.  In 2014, nearly half (47%) of high school seniors and eleven percent (11%) of students in eighth grade have been drunk at least once.  Even more troubling is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in five adolescents has ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking.  Looking at these numbers and the desire of teenagers to celebrate the end of the school year, it seems at appropriate time to review the laws in Illinois with regard to alcohol and adolescents.

The legal age to drink alcohol in Illinois is 21.  This means that providing alcoholic beverages to anyone under that age is prohibited.  In Illinois, an alcoholic beverage is any beverage that contains at least one-half (1/2) of one percent of alcohol.  Those under the age of 21 violate the law when they
  • Drink alcohol, unless as part of a religious service or ceremony;
  • Possess alcohol on a public street or in a public place;
  • Lie about their age to obtain alcohol;
  • Occupy a residence and knowingly allow someone under the age of 21 to possess alcohol;
  • Rent a hotel or motel room, knowing that the room will be used for illegal drinking of alcohol;
  • Carry, make, obtain or copy a false identification card; and
  • Operate a motor vehicle with any alcohol in their system.

Penalties for violating the law are stiff.  Unlawful consumption or possession is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or thirty (30) days in jail.  If the possession is on a public street or public place, the jail time is increased to up to six (6) months.  Fraudulent use of an identification card to obtain alcohol is punishable by a fine of $250 or twenty-five (25) hours of community service.  In addition, any person convicted of the above-listed violations may have their driver’s license revoked for one year, regardless of whether a motor vehicle was involved in the violation.

Furthermore, Illinois has a “Use It & Lose It” zero tolerance law for persons under the age of 21.  Drivers who have illegally consumed any amount of alcohol (even a “taste”) will have their driver’s licenses suspended for a minimum of three (3) months.  Any person under the age of 21 years of age may be charged with “driving under the influence” (DUI) if the person has a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more, or more that .05 with additional evidence proving impairment, any illegal drugs in his or her system, or other indications of impaired driving.  If convicted, the driver is subject to suspension of his or her driver’s license for a minimum of two (2) years, possible imprisonment for up to 12 months, 100 hours of community service and a fine of up to $2500.  The penalties are significantly stiffer for second and third convictions.  In addition, the violator can be ordered to participate in a program that includes visits to morgues or facilities that treat DUI victims.

Illinois laws address underage drinking, not only be penalizing the underage drinkers, but also by targeting adults who provide alcohol to minors.  Those adults face penalties of up to $1000 and/or one year in jail.  Additionally, Illinois’ social host law provides that individuals can be arrested and face criminal charges for 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.  A violation of this law is punishable by fines of at least $500.  If the violation directly or indirectly results in great bodily harm or death, penalties include from one to three years in jail and fines of up to $25,000.