I’ve been a law enforcement officer for 37 years, and during those years I’ve come across my share of incidents involving teens and underage drinking – recently we’ve seen an increase in these types of parties and they’re difficult situations for law enforcement. I know that it’s a difficult topic for families to navigate – the truth is that teens will find themselves in situations where they have to make choices about alcohol and drugs. The more they know about the physical and legal consequences of drinking and drug abuse, the better prepared they will be to make wise decisions.
While it may seem common or mainstream for some, the fact remains that there are serious consequences to illegal consumption of alcohol for both teens and their parents.
- The national drinking age is 21 and it is illegal to sell or provide alcohol to a minor
- It’s illegal to host a party where minors are consuming alcohol in your home. Parents who host can be held criminally and civilly liable for incidents that result from making alcoholic beverages available to anyone under the age of 21
Prom and graduation, times when we traditionally see an increase in underage drinking, come this month. Please take the time to sit down with your teenagers to help them understand the consequences that can result in underage drinking and impaired driving. As a community, we need to do everything we can to prevent a tragic outcome.
Here are some reminders for parents and teens:
In Highland Park, it is unlawful for a person age 17 and under to be present at or upon any public place, building, street or highway Sunday through Thursday between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and on Saturday and Sunday between 12:01 a.m. and 6 a.m.
Graduated Driver License Restrictions
Illinois provides a graduated driver’s license and many parents do not realize the consequences of a teenager driving past curfew hours. Insurance companies may not cover damages from accidents resulting from unlicensed drivers.
- A nighttime driving curfew is in place Sunday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. for teen drivers aged 15 through 17. A teen’s driver license is invalid after the curfew, and the driver stopped for a violation is subject to arrest for driving without a license
- For the first year of licensing or until the driver is age 18, whichever occurs first, the number of passengers is limited to one person under age 20, unless the additional passenger(s) is a sibling, step-sibling, child, or step-child of the driver. After this period, the number of passengers is limited to one in the front seat and the number of safety belts in the back seat
See www.cyberdriveillinois.com for more information about teen driving.
Underage Alcohol Consumption or Possession of Alcoholic Beverages
The Highland Park Police are committed to a zero tolerance enforcement approach to underage drinking and possession of alcohol by minors under 21 years of age.
The consequences for youth who violate the law including those listed above vary depending on the violation and the circumstances.
- Curfew violations for those 17 and under require that the youth be turned over to a parent or guardian. The youth may be brought into the station with an officer or be cited into Admin Hearing where a fine may be imposed.
- If the curfew violator is a driver, the youth cannot continue driving. The vehicle could be towed, parents or guardians notified and citations may be issued for the driver’s license violation that require an appearance in Branch Court.
- Youth in possession of alcohol at a party will receive either an administrative or county violation. Administrative citations require an appearance in front of an administrative hearing officer who may impose fines and other punishment. County violations require an appearance in Lake County Court.
- If a youth is found in possession of alcohol in a vehicle, there may be charges against the drivers’ license which could result in a suspension of driving privileges and the accompanying monetary fines.
Note – Each of these violations constitute an arrest. A suspect may be taken into custody where he/she is arrested, handcuffed and taken to the station for booking.
Parental Responsibility – Parents are reminded that:
- It is illegal for parents or teens to host or allow teen drinking parties in their home
- It is illegal to provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21
Parents hosting parties must actively supervise the youths attending. If you encounter youths arriving under the influence, don’t let them drive. Call their parents to pick them up or arrange to get them home safely. If they need medical help, call 911. Officers responding will review the totality of the circumstances. They understand when parents are acting responsibly.
On June 1, 2016, a law will come into effect that provides immunity from certain violations when law enforcement has been called to the scene for confirmed medical assistance due to alcohol consumption. In these situations, the caller must provide their full identity to the officer, remain at the scene until medical assistance arrives, and cooperate with emergency responders. This is sometimes called a “Good Samaritan” and encourages individuals to do the right thing by helping individuals who may be highly intoxicated and in danger.
As an officer, I’ve had the unfortunate job of calling parents late at night, to deliver the news that their child has been taken to the hospital with serious injuries in an accident due to driving while intoxicated. It is a dreadful responsibility to make these notifications. You can imagine the concern and emotions expressed by the parent, and the shock and fear in the parent’s voices – I can still hear it when I reflect back on it. Underage drinking isn’t a rite of passage; it’s a deadly choice with long-lasting consequences. We encourage all parents to have an open dialogue with their children to help them make smart decisions when it comes to the issues of alcohol and drugs.
Paul S. Shafer
Chief of Police
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