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New Underage Drinking Law Cracks Down on Parents

Provisions of an Illinois law expands on parents' responsibilities to prevent underage drinking on their property.

A law taking effect Jan. 1 targeting underage drinking will crack down on parents who allow minors to drink anywhere on their property.

The new law expands on one that specifies it is illegal for adults to let minors drink at their home. The expanded law makes it a misdemeanor carrying a $500 fine for any adult to knowingly permit minors under the age of 21 to drink alcohol on their property or in their home. If the violation results in bodily harm or death, the adult will be charged with a felony, according to a press release from the city of Wheaton.

The provision also strikes the requirement that the person in the home knows about the underage drinking activity.

Further, a parent or guardian who knowingly allows a minor to use their property in a way that violates the act's prohibited sales and possession provisions is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

There may be an extra measure of interest in the law in St. Charles, where a woman was cited in early November after police busted up an underage drinking party involving 65 juveniles, although only four youths actually were cited with underage drinking. The woman was cited under a local ordinance.

The incident sparked outrage among area parents and neighbors.

DUI attorney Donald Ramsell, of Ramsell & Associates, said the expanded law goes too far in its attempt to punish parents when teenagers drink, forcing the parents to act like police officers any time teenagers visit their homes. 

"The old law carried penalties only when parents actually authorized the drinking or actually knew it was occurring. This new law would put a parent in jail for up to 1 year simply because they failed to prevent underage drinking on their properties," he said. 

If an adult calls the police for assistance with getting rid of anyone breaking the rules on their property, he or she would not be in violation of the act, according to the release. 

To read more about the law change, go to the city of Wheaton website.

Holy Moly!!! December 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Thank you Joe!! My sentiment exactly! My kids and their friends probably thought I was a very obnoxious parent. I don't think they hated me, but I don't think they particularly liked me either. I would have much rather been relaxing with my husband, going out to dinner, or seeing a movie. Instead of such luxuries, I became an undercover agent when social events were held in my home. I interfered with some of their fun. I occasionally flipped the backyard light on while they had bonfires. I peeked out of back windows. I crept up and surprised them when they least expected it. I sometimes eavesdropped on their plans. I sniffed and smelled to make sure I didn't detect the odor of alcohol or weed. If I detected trouble, I boldly addressed it. This became increasingly difficult the older they became...but I continued. Unfortunately, if they were turned away from my home, I am sure they moved on to the next, hoping to find a home where parents were either more supportive of their efforts, oblivious to the possibilities, or out for the night.
Holy Moly!!! December 15, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Maybe they did hate me....
Sue Tills December 15, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Holy Moly, unfortunately despite all those efforts you mentioned, with this new law you could still find yourself in jail for a year. You would literally have to sniff each and every drink to make sure they're not adding alcohol to it. This law goes too far. If a parent is really diligent like you were then they have done their best to make sure the kids aren't drinking, but at some point the kids need to start taking responsibility for their own actions. Mom and Dad won't be there to babysit them when they go to college. It they haven't learned personal responsibility by then, they could be ill equipped to handle the temptations they will face.
joe torre December 15, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Sue you can smell the booze in a room and you can see if they are nervous and scramble around. In college they are on 18 not at home.
Sue Tills December 16, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Joe, you can't always smell the booze. When I was a teenager everclear with hawaiian punch was a party staple because you can't smell it.

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