Under age drinking laws get stricter
Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell of Deerfield leave the Lake County courthouse with an escort by two Lake County Sheriffs. State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, sponsored a bill in hopes of building onto legislation that was passed in the wake of a 2006 Deerfie
Updated: February 25, 2013 2:21AM
VERNON HILLS – Countless New Year’s Eve parties will be hosted on Monday, just hours before a new state law on underage drinking goes live.
As police follow-up on tips or act on suspicions, adults caught allowing underage drinking after midnight will face misdemeanor charges, accompanied with fines no less than $500 fine and potential jail time.
If bodily harm results from the underage drinking, adults responsible for the party would face class 4 felony charges – punishable by incarceration.
“Some parents say, ‘Everyone else is doing it. Our kids are going to drink somewhere, so they might as well drink where we can keep an eye on them,’” Vernon Hills Police Chief Mark Fleischhauer said. “Parents do not understand the responsibility they’re assuming when they do that.”
The new law, previously known as House Bill 1554, was approved 41-9 by the Illinois Senate on May 24 and 111-6 by the House on May 31.
State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, sponsored the bill in hopes of building onto legislation that was passed in the wake of a 2006 Deerfield accident.
“The main premise of the bill is to discourage hosting of underage drinking parties because adults should not be providing alcohol to minors,” Sente said.
Deerfield police said 18-year-olds Danny Bell and Ross Trace left the home of Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell on Oct. 16, 2006, after consuming large amounts of alcohol in the family basement with other teenagers.
Bell and Trace died when their car crashed into a tree a block from the house.
Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell were later convicted on misdemeanor counts of endangering the health of a child, attempted obstruction of justice and violating the state’s liquor control act. Jeffery Hutsell served 14 days in jail.
Both sentences came with probation, fines and community service.
“I don’t think those Deerfield people ever, in a million years, thought they’d be arrested and put in jail,” Fleischhauer said. “There were half a dozen families that were destroyed by what happened. The consequences are worse now.”
Later that year, legislation was passed making it a felony for parents if someone died because they provided alcohol to minors or a party was hosted at their house.
The new law creates the misdemeanor charge if police catch the actions before someone gets hurt. HB 1554 also extends the liability to any adult, not just parents, and to any property parties might occur at – not just a home.
Charges would not be filed if the liable adult calls the police for help dispersing the party or tracking down minors who may have fled.
“We’re trying to prevent the tragedies,” Fleischhauer said. “By eliminating the options, we hope to prevent alcohol consumption by minors. This is just another reason for adults to be responsible.”
The village of Vernon Hills adopted a local ordinance against “social hosting” in 1984. Police cannot charge felonies but the ordinance enforces up to $1,000 fines.
Sente said some legislators opposed her bill because they believed it was “excessive” and worried about “adult children holding parties.”~.