Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

Innocence not relevant for Illinois Mom

Illinois’ severe Social Host Law — coupled with Buffalo Grove’s even stricter local ordinance — has trapped an innocent mother. The police agree she did nothing wrong yet they had no choice but to arrest and charge her. I challenge the creators of the Illinois Social Host Law to demonstrate what important societal wrong was righted in Buffalo Grove on Saturday night.

Kristine Howard left her two eighth-grade graduates at home Saturday night while she attended a neighbor’s graduation party down the street. That’s her crime. She trusted her 14-year-old children to take care of themselves while she was a few houses away.

The police and the Howard family agree on these  facts: The kids had a couple of friends over and they drank. Howard wasn’t home; she didn’t serve alcohol, provide alcohol or give permission to the kids to drink alcohol. She discovered the kids were drinking when she returned home early that evening. Ms. Howard and the eighth-graders have no criminal records; their only previous connection with the police occurred when they were victims of theft.

That the stories diverge from there is irrelevant. Ms.Howard, an attractive, hard-working single mother of three was charged as a Social Host when her two youngest children were charged with underage possession and consumption of alcohol. If the charge holds up in court, she will be fined at least one thousand dollars. Why? Because Buffalo Grove’s local Social Host Ordinance includes the terrifying phrase “not taken all reasonable steps to prevent”. Who determines what constitutes “all reasonable steps”?  It’s a loopy logic loop: the kids got drunk, therefore the parent didn’t take all reasonable steps.

I believe laws should be based on objective criteria provable in court via physical or eyewitness evidence. Badly written laws with elastic subjective criteria like “reasonable steps” should be deemed unconstitutional.

What do you think?


To learn more:

Mom, teens face charges after underage drinking party – Buffalo Grove Patch – June 27, 2011 – Byline: Cristel Mohrman

UPDATE: Echoes of a tragedy resound in Illinois’ legislature and Supreme Court (socialhostlaw.wordpress.com)

The three little words that make all the difference (socialhostlaw.wordpress.com)

Catch 21: The teen trap  (socialhostlaw.wordpress.com)

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