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updated: 1/4/2013 12:08 PM

New Social Host Law Takes Affect

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Cheryll DeYoung

As of January 1st, the important role adults play in keeping alcohol out of the hands of our children was further defined, when new sanctions took effect for those allowing underage drinking.

The new legislation (House Bill 1554) closes a loophole of legal accountability for those who knowingly allow alcohol consumption by minors, known as social hosting. "By protecting our youth, we protect our future," said Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who signed Public Act 97-1049 into law at the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs Conference in August 2012. "Adults know it is unacceptable to allow underage drinking in their home. By putting a social host law on the books, we are sending a strong message to all adults that they will be held responsible when allowing this harmful activity."

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Violators of the social host law will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and subject to a fine of not less than $500.00 when they knowingly authorize or permit underage drinking in their home. If this activity results in great bodily harm or death to any person, the individual is subject to a Class 4 felony. However, a person will not be in violation if he or she has taken all reasonable steps to prevent this activity from occurring. Also, no charges will be filed if assistance is requested from law enforcement after discovery of the illegal activity.

"Statistics show that friends and family remain the primary source of alcohol for underage drinking," says Illinois Liquor Control Commission Executive Director Gloria L. Materre. "Just as our liquor licensees are punished when selling to minors, all adults will now be subject to penalties should they provide alcohol to minors."

In Maine Township, Park Ridge had its own social host ordinance. The new law now makes it a statewide offense and also extends the violation to other property under parents' or guardians' control, such as a cabin or boathouse where underage drinking may occur, in addition to their home.

The social host law comes on the heels of tougher restrictions approved by Park Ridge City Council in October 2012 for teens charged with alcohol or drug violations. Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski said, "This legislation is another tool for us to prevent underage drinking and its harmful consequences. Adults and older siblings may be of the opinion that kids will drink no matter what, so it's better if they do it at home. Regardless of how youngsters get alcohol or where they consume it, the new law acknowledges that it is socially unacceptable and illegal to provide alcohol or allow kids to drink."

MCYAF, a community coalition working to prevent underage drinking and drug use in Maine Township, fully endorses the new law. For more information on the new law, see http://legiscan.com/IL/bill/HB1554.

About MCYAF

The Maine Community Youth Assistance Foundation is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide Maine Township residents with a foundation to make healthier choices. MCYAF works with parents, schools, police, youth, government, health care providers, social service, faith and civic organizations toward a common goal of healthy youth. MCYAF secures federal and state grants as well as corporate and private donations for programs and services that promote improved health for residents. For more information, see www.mcyaf.com or contact us at (847) 858-7090.

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