Underage Drinking in Illinois

Like all 50 states in the United States, Illinois law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 years from drinking alcohol. The legal age of 21 is largely due to the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 (23 U.S.C. § 158), which states that any state that sets a legal drinking age below 21 years will receive 10 percent less of federal highway funding.

Though drinking is illegal for minors, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that approximately 462,000 Illinois residents ages 12-20 years consume alcohol every year. If you or your child is under the age of 21 and is suspected of possessing alcohol, the law sets out strict charges and potential penalties. A minor in possession is charged as a Class A misdemeanor, for which an offender may face:

  • Up to 1 year in jail;
  • Up to a $2,500 fine;
  • Supervised probation;
  • Community service; and
  • House arrest with electronic monitoring.

Minors may face additional Class A misdemeanor charges and related penalties if they used fake identification to purchase or otherwise obtain the alcohol. These are serious charges, thus you always want to make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney handling your case.

Exceptions to the Law

Most people are not aware that there are a few exceptions to the Illinois prohibition on alcohol consumption for minors. There are three scenarios in which a minor may drink and not face legal consequences:

  1. The alcohol consumption is part of a religious ceremony or service;
  2. The alcohol is consumed in a private home with the permission of a parent or other adult acting in a parental role;
  3. The alcohol is tasted—not consumed—as part of an educational or culinary course under the supervision of a teacher aged 21 or older.

Underage DUI

Driving driving while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is against the law in Illinois for a person of any age. However, when drivers under the age of 21 are accused of drinking and driving, they are breaking two different laws—for both alcohol consumption and for driving after the alcohol consumption. A minor may be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is .02% or higher, which is basically any discernible amount of alcohol. A DUI conviction can mean a driver’s license suspension in addition to jail time, fines, probation, substance abuse classes, community service, installation of an ignition interlock device, higher insurance rates, and more. The penalties will increase with a second or any other subsequent DUI offenses within 5 years, and may mean mandatory time in jail. In addition to a DUI, a minor may simultaneously receive a minor in possession or other alcohol-related charge.

Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Lawyer for help

If you or your child is facing a minor in possession, DUI, or other alcohol-related offense, your first step should be to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for assistance. Steven Goldman has extensive experience defending alcohol-related charges and will work to minimize or eliminate the consequences you or your child is facing. Contact Goldman & Associates for help today.

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