Social Host Liability Laws and Ordinances
Underage drinking is not an uncommon occurrence in our society. High school and college students all too frequently have parties where excessive amounts of alcohol are being consumed by minors. This may not be terribly surprising, but it should be alarming.
Dangerous consequences can occur when minors drink alcohol or take drugs, including alcohol poisoning and other serious injuries that may result due to overconsumption. Additionally, drunk driving crashes and death may even be possible. Many adults may not realize that they can be held liable under Illinois's so
Lake Zurich Social Hosting Ordinance (Title 3-Chapter 3-Article C-20)
This Ordinance states that it is unlawful for any person to host, permit, allow, or fail to take reasonable steps to prevent an event or gathering at any residence or premises, or on any other property whether private or public, or in any conveyance, over which that person has control or a reasonable opportunity for control where illicit drugs or alcoholic beverages are present when that person knows or reasonably should know that an underage person will or does consume or possess any illicit drugs or alcoholic beverage.
It also is unlawful for any person to fail to take reasonable steps to prevent possession or consumption of illicit drugs or alcoholic beverages by an underage person at any such event or gathering. A person who hosts an event or gathering does not have to be present at the event or gathering to be in violation of this ordinance.
This Ordinance does include some exceptions for hosts that undertake the following steps before any other person makes a complaint about the event or gathering:
- Seeks assistance from the Lake Zurich Police Department or other law enforcement agency to remove any person who refuses to abide by the host's performance of the duties imposed by this chapter, or
- Terminates the event or gathering because the host has been unable to prevent underage persons from consuming illicit drugs or alcoholic beverages despite having taken all reasonable steps to do so.
- Any person who violates or assists in the violations of any provision of the Social Hosting Ordinance shall be fined no less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) nor more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00).
- A second violation of this Ordinance by the same person within a twelve (12) month period shall be punishable by a fine of no less than five hundred dollars ($500.00) nor more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00).
- A third or subsequent violation of this Ordinance by the same person within a twelve (12) month period shall be punishable by a fine of no less than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00).
Illinois Social Hosting Law (235 ILCS 5/6-16)
The Illinois Social Hosting Law became effective on January 1, 2013. It specifies that it is against the law for a parent or guardian to knowingly allow underage drinking at parties at a residence or any other private property, public place, or premises under his or her control where any one or more of the persons is under 21 years of age and the person occupying the residence or controlling the private property, public place, or premises knows or reasonably should know that any such person under the age of 21 is in possession of or is consuming any alcoholic beverage.
The fines and penalties relating to the Illinois Law are significant:
- Violators will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and will be subject to $500.00 - $2,500 in fines.
- If a minor dies or is seriously injured as a result of illegally provided alcohol, the provider can be charged with a Class 4 felony and sentenced between 1 and 3 years imprisonment, and up to $25,000 in fines.
Who is Affected by Social Host Liability?
The group most impacted by the social host liability laws in Illinois may be parents of teenagers. If parents allow a party to be held in their home and minors are also drinking alcohol while in their home, the parents may be held responsible for any resulting injuries or deaths that may result. Parents may also be held liable if the impaired teenager gets behind the wheel and into motor vehicle crash causing injuries or death to themselves or others.
It is important for parents to understand that they can be held liable under Illinois social host liability law even if they do not supply the minors with the alcohol. If the kids are drinking in the parent's home, even without the parents' permission, the parents may be held responsible for any injuries that result.
If a parent is found responsible under Illinois' social host liability law, the victim, or his or her parents, may be entitled to compensation for the injuries suffered. Some compensatory damages may include:
- Costs for medical treatment
- Costs of future medical care
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Attorney's fees
- Punitive damages
- Refuse to supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.
- Be home and have an adult present if your child is hosting an event.
- Make sure alcohol is not brought into your home by your child’s friends.
- Talk to other parents about not providing alcohol at events your child will be attending.
- Talk to your child about their responsibilities and consequences of their actions.
- Be a role model for your child.
- Create alcohol-free opportunities and activities in your home.
- Report underage drinking to law enforcement officials.