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Underage Drinking Liability: Illinois House Bill 4745

Rolling Meadows Criminal Defense Lawyer

Minor in possession. Open container violations. Driving under the influence. Minors are particularly susceptible to committing these alcohol-related crimes in peer-driven situations while still underage. Some parents have resigned to the fact that their children will drink regardless of their efforts, and will do everything they can to keep them safe—even if that means breaking the law themselves. Some parents implement "safe drinking" environments, where their children and peers may consume alcohol so long as they are supervised, monitored, and everyone stays the night. New legislation that went into effect on January 1, 2015 makes it clear that Illinois will no longer tolerate any form of supplying or endorsing minor's alcohol consumption.

Understanding Illinois Law: The Parent's Perspective

First, it is important to remember that it is not only unlawful for a minor to purchase alcohol, but to consume it as well. Many minors may erroneously believe (or be compelled to believe by their misinformed peers) that if they did not buy the alcohol, they can drink it. This type of mentality is what went behind the original alcohol consumption among minors legislation. In 2013, Illinois passed legislation making it a crime for adults to furnish alcohol to minors at their home. This legislation included not only providing alcohol to minors, but also criminalized mere knowledge of drinking in the adult's home or other private property.

The new legislation, House Bill 4745, extends the criminal scope and penalties of adults involved in underage drinking. The new law specifically indicates that providing alcohol, knowing that alcohol is being consumed, or providing a space for the consumption of alcohol to minors is illegal. This includes hotel rooms being rented by the parents for the purpose of allowing minors to consume alcohol and extends to watercraft and recreational vehicles.

The punishment for a parent or guardian endorsing the consumption of alcohol among minors, at their residence or otherwise, is at least a Class A Misdemeanor, the most severe misdemeanor under Illinois law. At a minimum, a conviction under these circumstances will lead to a fine of at least $500, and the possibility of other associated penalties. If death or significant bodily harm results from a parent or guardian providing, endorsing, or having knowledge of these unlawful activities, the guardian may be convicted of a Class 4 felony, which has significantly steeper penalties and more severe ramifications on the offender's future.

Punishments for Underage Drinkers in Illinois

Another common misconception is that if the parents provide, endorse, or have knowledge of alcohol consumption, the minors are off the hook legally. This is, in fact, not true. Minors have a wide range of offenses they can be charged with, even if they did not purchase the alcohol themselves. If they made a representation they were at least 21 in order to procure alcohol, if they used a false identification, if they are in possession of an alcoholic beverage on the street or in the car, or if someone who is 21 procures alcohol for a group of friends—all of these actions can result in serious long-term consequences and a permanent criminal record. It is important to note that a conviction or supervision for any alcohol offense by a minor results in the suspension of their driving privileges.

The deterrent effect of criminalizing this behavior is intended to reflect on both adults and minors alike. The adults should recognize that they are not the only ones at risk of getting into legal trouble—their criminal charges will not shield their children or children's friends from prosecution. Understanding how these new laws affect parents, children, and anyone providing alcohol to minors is critical in ensuring you are in compliance with the law.

Rolling Meadows Criminal Defense Attorney

Not all laws are cut and dry. New legislation, especially, is susceptible to misinterpretation and misapplication in the courts. If you, your child, or anyone you know has been charged with any alcohol-related offenses, you have a right to understand the charges being brought against you and what your options are.

At the Law Offices of Donald J. Cosley, you can rest assured that Donald J. Cosley, an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney, will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. Attorney Cosley understands that everyone makes mistakes and that there are two sides to every story. Attorney Cosley will provide you with a safe, non-judgmental place to explain the background of the incident. He understands the profound effect a criminal charge or conviction can have on your emotional, personal, and professional life and will do everything possible to ensure your rights are protected and the best possible result is accomplished. Contact the Law Offices of Donald J. Cosley today at 847-253-3100 to set up a free initial consultation.

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