Underage Drinking in Chicago

wil-stewart-24563-copy-300x200The prosecutor or defending attorney who deals with underage drinking in Chicago is probably one of the busiest in the business. This is a law that catches the people who are most vulnerable to breaking it. At the moment, the minimum drinking age is 21 years, but some consider it too high with the suggestion for a reduction to as low as 16 years of age. It is important to note that this is a law that not only captures those who infringe on it directly but also parents who host the offenders. That means that legal ramifications of underage drinking can go beyond merely arresting and releasing an impulsive teenager.

There are certain unique parts of the law that are designed to capture the realities of life in Chicago. For example, recognition is given to the fact that some parents legitimately allow their children to drink alcohol as part of religious ceremonies. The provision comes with a supervisory requirement, which otherwise makes it a crime. Therefore, the parent must be supervising the child when he or she is consuming alcohol for religious purposes. Moreover, such activity must only take place within the confines of the family home and nowhere else. Otherwise, it is still a crime.

Responsibilities and Terms

Defending attorneys need to be aware of the terms of supervision that are envisaged under the law. The leading case is People v. Haase. Once the minor leaves the home after drinking or when intoxicated, a crime under the law might be committed. In that case, the prosecutor made the argument that the parents were responsible for supervision right up to the point that the alcohol had worn off. However, in their findings, the judges concluded that the terms of the statute were only limited to supervising during the drinking of the alcohol and not afterwards. Some might argue that such an interpretation creates a loophole that might be exploited by parents who want to indulge their children. It might also assist those who deliberately or inadvertently neglect their children.

There are certain municipalities that have created local bylaws that are designed to capture such parents in some way. They may, for example, require that the parent remains with the child at home during his or her period of intoxication. At the moment, the courts have not pronounced whether municipal law can take precedence over state laws in some situations in which  the parents are abusing the loopholes that have been identified in the system. The full discretionary powers for the prosecutor are also still in the making through the use of precedent. The details of the level of intoxication may not necessarily be relevant since the law merely speaks about the consumption of alcohol rather than the units consumed. This is a different proposition from what would be the case of driving under the influence, in which the potency and quantity of alcoholic content is a prime consideration.

The Use of the Plea Bargain

Given the fact that this is not usually a violent crime, it is possible to engage in a plea bargain in order to save the court’s time. The prosecutor will take into consideration all the circumstances of the case before deciding whether to accept the plea bargain. For example, someone who is doing no harm to the public is different from that one who goes on a rampage after consuming alcohol. Certainly, repeat offenders are going to be treated more harshly than those who have made the first mistake of their lives. The attorney should carefully consider and present the mitigating circumstances when they are provable and helpful to the client. For a trustworthy opinion on your underage drinking case, contact David Freidberg Attorney at Law at 312-567-7100.

(image courtesy of Wil Stewart)