Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 31, 2012

New law to toughen underage consumption

Bill Grimes
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Police admit it has been tough to bust adults who allow minors to drink alcohol in their homes or elsewhere on their property.

    But that's all going to change Tuesday, when a beefed-up "Social Host Law" goes into effect. Signed by Gov. Pat Quinn on Aug. 22, Public Act 97-1049 makes it easier to prosecute adults who knowingly allow alcohol consumption by minors.

    Violators could be found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and fined no less than $500. If it is found that underage drinking contributed to harm or death to a minor, the host could be charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison.

    Effingham Police Department Sgt. Jason McFarland said PA 97-1049 could be a great help to law enforcement seeking to curb underage drinking in an area where it has long been prevalent.

    "This will make the law a lot easier to enforce," McFarland said. "The previous law didn't cover property outside a home, such as a boat or yard.

    "Before, you had to know that the minor left your home after they had been drinking," he said. "But now, if you know they are drinking at your home or any property you own, you will be breaking the law."

    McFarland said police would be aggressively enforcing the revised law.

    The executive director of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission said the revised law addresses a long-established fact of underage alcohol consumption.

    "Statistics show that friends and family remain the primary source of alcohol for underage drinking," said 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."

    PA 97-1049 was sponsored by state Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, and state Sen. Susan Garrett, D-Highwood. As House Bill 1554, the legislation passed the House 106-4 and breezed through the Senate 41-9.

    Area legislators supported the bill. On the Senate side, Kyle McCarter and Dale Righter both voted for the bill, while on the House side, David Reis and John Cavaletto both voted in favor of the bill.

  Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.