Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"I HOSTED AN UNDERAGE DRINKING PARTY!": YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A PARENT

You left your otherwise responsible 17-year-old son home for the weekend. While you were gone, your son and his friends held a party, taking advantage of your liquor cabinet. When your son’s friend drove away drunk from your home, he hit another car and now, under Illinois’s social hosting statute, you are charged with criminal penalties for providing the alcohol.

What is the law?
Under Illinois law, you may be guilty of a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a $1000 fine, if you knowingly provide alcohol to someone under the age of 21 other than your own child. If serious injury or death occurs, you can be charged with a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. If injury or death occurs, you can also be civilly liable for having provided the alcohol.

You are considered to have knowingly authorized the use of alcohol if you fail to control access to the liquor cabinet in your residence. Therefore, under Illinois law, you could be at fault simply for leaving your liquor cabinet available while you were away.

What can you do? If you are charged with providing alcohol to minors, seek the advice of an attorney immediately. Do not give any statements to the police or anyone else. What you think is a reasonable explanation might be enough to convict you later. Refrain from discussing this matter in person or electronically via texts, email or any Facebook-type pages.

Because you may also be civilly liable for any injuries, it is critical that you vigorously defend any criminal charges. A guilty verdict in a criminal case can become a foregone conclusion in a civil matter, which has a lower burden of proof. An experienced attorney can help develop a strategy for your defense. Maybe you did not knowingly provide the alcohol. Maybe the alcohol did not come from your home, or your enterprising son picked the lock of your liquor cabinet. Under many village statutes and state law, there is also a limited exception for religious services.

Municipal Penalties. In addition to state penalties, many municipalities have their own penalties. For example, in Skokie, you may not allow an underage person who has drunk alcohol in your home to leave except in the care of their guardian. In Wilmette, you may allow your own child to drink in your home, but you may not allow that child to leave while still under the influence of alcohol. Furthermore, in Wilmette, you cannot allow someone else’s child to remain on your premises while possessing or drinking alcohol.

In Evanston, you may not knowingly permit a gathering of two or more minors to possess or drink alcohol. You cannot intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently give or deliver alcohol to a minor or invite someone under age 18 to have alcohol on your premises. If you know there is a substantial probability that your child may drink, you must restrain him or her from driving or from committing other illegal acts, such as theft or vandalism.

The City of Park Ridge has taken the issue of underage drinking parties so seriously that police have formed a Parent Party Patrol to assist police with reports of underage drinking.

If you have any questions about your situation, please do not hesitate to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

See our related DUI blog at http://duilawyerskokie.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves clients in the communities of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Palatine, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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