Harsher penalty for enabling underage drinking
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: February 25, 2013 2:21AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Countless New Year’s Eve parties will be hosted Dec. 31, just hours before a new state law on underage drinking goes into effect.
Adults caught allowing underage drinking, whether explicitly or implicitly, will face misdemeanor charges at a minimum, accompanied by a fine no less than $500 and potential jail time.
That’s only if there are no injuries as a result of a minor being intoxicated.
If bodily harm results, adults responsible for hosting the party or buying the alcohol will face Class 4 felony charges, which are punishable by prison time.
“I hope that adults and parents take the law seriously because the police certainly will be,” Libertyville Police Chief Clinton Herdegen said.
An education period is necessary to make people aware of the new, stricter penalties, Herdegen added. He recently wrote an article on the law for the village newsletter.
Herdegen has been heading the Libertyville force for a little more than two years, and was not involved with the coalition of local police chiefs who were instrumental in pushing for the law. Even so, he supports the measure.
“Certainly, I support the initiative,” he said. “I believe the legislation was needed.”
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 of Representatives on May 31.
State Rep. Carol Sente, D-59th, of Vernon Hills, sponsored the bill as a means of building onto legislation that was previously passed in the wake of a fatal 2006 accident in Deerfield.
“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.
On Oct. 16, 2006, 18-year-olds Danny Bell and Ross Trace left the Deerfield home of Jeffrey and Sara Hutsell after consuming large amounts of alcohol in the family’s basement with other teenagers.
Bell and Trace died when their car crashed into a tree a block away from the house. Two other passengers survived.
The Hutsells were convicted in 2007 on misdemeanor counts of endangering the health of a child, violating the state’s liquor control act and attempted obstruction of justice. 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,” said Mundelein Police Chief Raymond Rose, who was a major proponent of strengthening the law.
As chairman of the Lake County Chiefs of Police Association’s Underage Drinking Committee, Rose worked with legislators to toughen the consequences.
In April 2007, legislation was passed making it a felony for parents if someone dies because they provided alcohol to minors. As a result, Libertyville, like 29 other Lake County municipalities, adopted a local ordinance prohibiting “social hosting.”
The new state law now extends the liability to any adult, not just parents, and to any property where a party might occur at – not just a home.
The felony charge remains the same if an intoxicated minor causes grave harm, and now a misdemeanor will result even if they do not.
Charges will not be filed if the liable adult calls the police for help dispersing a party or tracking down minors who may have fled.
Though the bill passed by wide margins, Sente said some legislators opposed it because they felt it was “excessive” and worried about their “‘adult’ children holding parties.”