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Underage Drinking and Parental Liability

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parental liability, DuPage County family law attorneysParents have a defined duty to care for and provide their children with food, clothing, education, and a hospitable environment to live. A parent must also protect his or her children from harm by teaching them about the importance of following laws and regulations that are created for the purpose of child protection.

One of the laws that seems to be most flouted by minors is the National Minimum Drinking Age Act which, in 1984, set the minimum drinking age at a person’s 21st birthday. This is a federal law which states comply with and make it illegal to allow persons under 21 the ability to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages (except in the cases of religious observance).

Underage Drinking Statistics

In 2013, it was estimated that nine million minors, between the ages of 12 and 20, reported to have consumed alcohol in a 30-day period. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the percentage of alcohol consumption increases with age, finding that between the ages of 12 and 16, the percentage of alcohol consumption increased by 18 percent. Between 16 years old and 20 years old, the percentage of alcohol consumption increased by 52 percent.

Clearly, alcohol consumption becomes more prominent with minors the older they get.

Illinois’ Social Host Liability Law

The ability of minors to obtain alcohol usually comes from another source. The trend seen is that parents buy their children alcohol for their parties, thinking that if their children are going to drink, they would prefer that they do the drinking at home under their supervision and not in an unknown, uncontrolled environment.

Illinois has a significant number of minor consumption and possession of alcohol laws. On January 1, 2013, Illinois passed the social host liability law, which now imputes liability on parents for any injury or damage that occurs as a result of providing alcohol to their children and/or their children’s friends.

Social Host Liability Law: Parents Can be Both Civilly and Criminally Liable

According to Illinois’s social host liability law, parents can be held both civilly and criminally liable for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of their producing alcohol to or permitting their children (and/or the children’s friends) to drink in the home as part of a social gathering.

For liability to be imposed on a parent(s), it must be determined that the parent(s) knew, or had reason to know, that the children were drinking in the residence, or in a hotel/motel that was purchased for the children.

Consequences of the Social Host Liability Law: Class A Misdemeanor

If a parent is found to be liable under the social host liability law, he or she will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and may be fined up to $500 for permitting or authorizing their children to drink in the home; it does not necessarily need to be the home, but could be extended to a hotel or motel room if the parent(s) got the room so that the children could drink within.

Parental Liability When Someone is Seriously Injured or Killed

If someone is injured seriously or dies as a result of the underage drinking, then the parent(s) may be found guilty of a Class 4 felony. The application of the Class 4 felony extends to parents if their children and/or someone else’s child dies as a result of their underage drinking and in the situation where their child or someone else’s child kills another (i.e. drunk driving accident) as a result of their intoxication. The parent(s) may have a defense against these charges if the parent(s) did not know nor had reason to know of the underage alcohol consumption, or took reasonable steps to prevent the underage drinking from happening in the first place.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Parental liability for the actions of children can be difficult to understand as it may be hard to decipher where child liability ends and parental liability starts. Moreover, if you suspect your underage child's other parent is providing him or her with alcohol while in their custody, the family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC can help. Contact our DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

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