Alert: Two revised and tougher underage drinking laws
The states of Illinois and Connecticut have passed revised versions of their existing Social Host Laws. Both of the amended SHLs broaden the definition of who is a host, which means more people will be charged than in previous years.
Connecticut’s version, which is expected to penalize thousands of residents in the state, goes into effect October 1, 2012. Fines and jail time escalate for repeat offenders with the maximum reaching a year in jail and $2,000 in fines.
Illinois’ new law, which broadens who can be liable, how and where that liability can occur and specifies steps to avoid liability, goes into effect on January 1, 2013. Fines begin at $500 with no upper limit. If someone is injured or killed as a result of underage drinking on your property, you may also be liable for a Class 4 felony charge, which can result in one to three years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines. The felony addition is the legislature’s reaction to the 2006 deaths of two young men who drank, left a party and drove into a tree. The parents, Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell, were found criminally liable, although they maintained they were ignorant of the drinking. Jeffrey Hutsell served time in jail and both parents paid steep fines. However, when they were sued by a parent of one of the boys, 18-year-old Daniel Bell, their case went to Illinois Supreme Court where they were cleared of civil liability.
An article about Connecticut’s new law can be found here. Information about both laws, and several others that are in the works, can be found on our page Pending State Legislation. Information about the Hutsell case, including updates, can be found here.