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, cities may also have a law about drinking under 21.

Generally, the rule is that you must be 21 to drink alcohol in Illinois. However, there are two instances when it is okay to drink under 21: (1) as part of a religious event, or (2) 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 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." The law does allow the child's legal guardian to be present instead of a parent.

The only place kids under 21 may drink with their parents is in the privacy of a home. So you cannot 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, you cannot let other kids drink. This applies even if you are watching them and in your own home. 

Following this special rule means that if a child gets in trouble for drinking under 21, then he has a defense to that criminal charge. There may be other legal issues that arise as a result. For instance, a parent may have problems with DCFS. An ex-spouse may claim 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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