Can I Let My Child Drink Alcohol at Home?

Can I Let My Child Drink Alcohol at Home?

Last updated: February 2008

The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette.

Question

Is it illegal for me as a parent to let my child drink some wine in my home?

Answer

Illinois has a law that makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol (wine, beer, or liquor), but there is a special rule if parents are around. That means that kids can drink alcohol with their parents watching, but only at home.

Drinking under 21 is a Class A misdemeanor (the most serious kind), which can mean a $1,000 fine and 1 year in jail. In addition to the Illinois law, a city could also have a law about drinking under 21.

So, the rule is that you have to be 21 to drink in Illinois. There are two special rules for when it is okay to drink under 21: (1) when it’s part of a religious event, or (2) when it is under the watchful care of a parent, at home. 

Local laws often have these same special rules. Both Champaign and Urbana, for example, have nearly the exact same special rules as Illinois.

If you want to use the special rule about letting your kid drink in your home, then one or both parents have to actually be with the child. You can't just say "son, you can drink at home whenever you want." If you're a legal guardian that is like being a parent for this law.

The only place under 21 drinkers can drink with their parents is in the privacy of a home. You can’t, for example, let your kids drink at a restaurant, or a bar.

Illinois parents can let their own kids, in their own home, drink under their watchful eye. However, letting other kids drink, even if you're watching, in your own home, can get you into trouble.

Exactly following this special rule means that if a child gets in trouble for drinking under 21, then he has a defense to the criminal charge. It doesn’t mean a parent will avoid problems with DCFS, or with an ex-spouse claiming the parent is being a bad parent. The younger the drinkers, and the more they drink, the more trouble you could get into.
 

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