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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 that took effect Jan. 1 targeting underage drinking cracks down on parents who allow minors to drink anywhere on their property.

That's of some interest to this area, which has had its share of discussion on the topic. Back in 2012, Geneva upped its fine for the offense, following weeks of City Council discussion, and there was significant attention to a case in which a parent in Geneva was charged with allowing an underage drinking party at his home. Prosecutors ultimately dropped the case against Robert Caruso this year, ending months of court appearances.

There was also a 19-year-old Batavia man who was charged after police said he held two underage drinking parties in two days in July 2012. His parents were out of town at the time of the parties, accordng to a police report.

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 also might 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.

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