SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation today that underscores adults’ responsibility for preventing underage drinking. Senate Bill 158, sponsored by State Senator Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) and State Representative Karen May (D-Highland Park), increases the penalty to 1-3 years in prison and up to a $125,000 fine for parents who knowingly allow underage alcohol consumption in their home and the drinking leads to serious injuries or death. This bill is in response to a tragic car accident that killed two Deerfield teens and injured three others who had been drinking at a house party last October.
“Last year we grieved with a high school in Deerfield that lost two students in a car crash after parents allowed teen drinking in their home,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “As parents, we have a responsibility to protect young people from harm, even when it’s not popular. This legislation will send a clear message to parents that they will face stiff penalties, including prison, if they knowingly allow kids to drink alcohol in their home.”
SB 158 amends the Liquor Control Act by changing parents’ and guardians’ liability and punishment for incidents of underage alcohol consumption in the home. The new legislation increases the penalty to a Class 4 felony for a parent if they allowed underage drinking in their home and bodily harm or death resulted. This would include an underage drunk driving accident, alcohol poisoning, and other accidents leading to injury or death involving an underage drinker. An exception is allowed for a parent/guardian who provides alcohol to underage individuals for religious observance.
The impetus of the bill was a tragic car accident in which two teens died and three others were injured during Homecoming weekend last year in Deerfield, a Chicago suburb. The Deerfield couple that allowed teen drinking at a party at their home was charged with a misdemeanor, the maximum charge. Under the new legislation, officials could charge parents or guardians with a felony in similar situations.
Debra Trypak, a Glenview mother who lost her son two years ago, is a strong advocate for laws protecting minors from acquiring alcohol. Her son, Joey, died after an area liquor store sold alcohol to minors. She subsequently supported the state’s effort last year in tracking alcohol purchases, entitled TrAIL (Tracking Alcohol in IL), currently underway in eight Illinois counties.
“The state has made it a priority to reduce underage drinking, and I commend the Governor for his commitment in this fight,” said Ms. Trypak. “Cases like Deerfield are still an all-too-common occurrence in our state. With programs like TrAIL and laws like SB158, parents and retailers know that the state is serious about solving this problem and protecting our kids.”
“I hope this law will be another milestone to ensure cooperation between parents, teens and law enforcement when it comes to underage drinking. Our goal is to keep our communities stronger, our parents more involved and our teens safer,” said Sen. Garrett.
“The accident in Deerfield hit our community hard last year,” said Rep. May. “We saw that parents need to be parents and stop destructive behavior rather than ignore it. This legislation will send a message to parents throughout the state that we do not tolerate lax attitudes toward alcohol.”
SB 158 is effective immediately.