The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," ran in the Champaign News Gazette.
Is it illegal for me to let my child drink alcohol at home?
In Illinois, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol. Drinking under 21 is a Class A misdemeanor, the most serious kind. It can mean a $1,000 fine and 1 year in jail. Cities may also have a law about drinking under 21.
There is a special rule if parents are around. Kids can drink alcohol with their parents watching, but only at home. You cannot let your kids drink at a restaurant or a bar.
If you want to use the special rule about letting your kid drink in your home, one parent must be with the child. You can't let the child drink at home whenever he or she wants. The law does allow the child's legal guardian to be present instead of a parent.
You can let your own kids drink. You cannot let other kids drink. This rule applies even if you are watching them in your own home.
Following this special rule means that if a child gets in trouble for drinking under 21, that child has a defense to that criminal charge. There may be other legal issues that arise. For instance, parents may have problems with DCFS. The other parent may claim that the parent who allowed the drinking is unfit. The younger the drinkers and the more they drink, the more trouble parents could get into.