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: January 28, 2013 2:45PM
MUNDELEIN – Countless New Year’s Eve parties will be hosted next week, 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 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.
“We’re trying to save lives,” Mundelein Police Chief Ray Rose said. “Nobody likes finding bodies, but sometimes people need help with common sense. Alcohol is not intended for people under 21 for a reason.”
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 away from the house.
Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell were convicted in 2007 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.
“Kids didn’t have to die for parents to learn a lesson,” Rose said.
As chairman of the Lake County Chiefs of Police Association’s Underage Drinking Committee, Rose worked with legislators to heighten the consequences.
In April 2007, legislation was passed making it a felony for parents if someone dies because they provided alcohol to minors or a party was hosted at their house.
The village of Mundelein, like 29 other Lake County municipalities, adopted a local ordinance against “social hosting” in 2009. Police cannot charge felonies but the ordinance enforces up to $750 fines.
The 2012 state 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.
Sente said Rose was also instrumental in lobbying for the 2012 bill.
Sente said some legislators opposed her bill because they believed it was “excessive” and worried about “adult children holding parties.”
A community group called Mundelein’s STAND-UP Task Force was assembled in 2009 and meets every month at the police department to discuss ways to prevent drug use and underage drinking. The group consists of representatives from schools, churches, other advocacy groups and government.