Illinois alcohol laws can be confusing. Do people know that persons of any age under 21 may drink? It must be in a private residence with a parent or guardian present. The myth that ‘underage drinking is illegal in Illinois’ is wrong. It misleads millions of people.
I. Minimum Ages
II. More Alcohol Laws
IV. Get Good Advice
Knowing what’s legal or not can be hard. For example, Illinois driving laws are extremely complex. And alcohol laws can vary from county to county. Even from city to city within a state.
I. Minimum Ages
Young people often want part-time jobs. Many are in hospitality. Youths need to know the ages necessary for working with alcohol. How old must one be to tend bar? To serve alcohol in a restaurant? What about to sell alcohol in a store for drinking elsewhere?
Illinois alcohol laws permit adults aged 18 or older to be bartenders. They permit them to be servers in venues that sell alcohol for consumption on-site. And they permit them to sell alcohol for consumption off-site.
Those under 21 may not buy alcohol. Using a false ID to buy it is a criminal act. Nor may those under 21 drive with any blood in their system. That’s a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.00%.
II. More Illinois Alcohol Laws
The penalty for doing so is a fine up to $2,500 and imprisonment for up to one year. That’s for a first offense. Multiple convictions can lead to imprisonment for over one year and a fine up to $25,000.
It’s also illegal to sell or serve alcohol to an intoxicated person. The penalty is imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of $500 to $2,500.
It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy or attempt to buy alcohol. For a first offense, the penalty is driver’s license suspension for three months and court supervision for six months. It’s a one-year suspension and court supervision.
Possessing another person’s driver’s license or state ID card can lead to license suspension or revocation. This penalty can occur without any conviction.
Illinois alcohol laws prohibit allowing underage drinking at a private residence. The penalty is jail for up to one year and a fine of $500 to $2,500. If the house party results in serious injury or death the penalty increases. It becomes prison for up to three years and fines up to $25,000. And, of course, the offender has a criminal record for life.
The town of South Holland is dry. That is, it permits no sale or purchase of alcohol.
Age 21 or Older
It’s illegal for anyone 21 or older to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. It’s also illegal to have any trace of illicit drugs in a driver’s body.
All drivers have a Constitutional right to decline taking a BAC test if an officer requests it. Nevertheless, the state punishes those to use their right.
The penalties for a BAC of 0.08% or higher, a trace of drugs, or declining testing are simple. For a first offense it’s a driver’s license suspension for six months. However, for using the right to decline testing, it’s a one-year suspension.
A second offense within five years leads to higher penalties. It’s a license suspension for one year. But it’s for declining testing, the suspension is for three years. In the latter case, there is no driving relief possible. That is, license with hardship restrictions, ignition interlock device, etc.
Under Age 21
Illinois alcohol laws prohibit driving with a BAC over 0.0. Most states set the limit at 0.02%. That’s because of the unreliability of breathalyzers. In addition, all humans naturally produce alcohol in their bodies. Finally, many medications and foods contain alcohol.
So setting the limit above 0.00% reduces the chance of unfairly convicting innocent people.
The penalty for those under 21 driving with a BAC over 0.00% is simple. It’s a driving license suspension for three months. On the other hand, it’s six months for declining a BAC test.
For a second offense, it’s a one-year license suspension. But for declining a BAC test, it’s a two-year suspension.
A person under 21 who has a BAC of 0.08% or higher faces more severe penalties. For a first conviction it’s up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. In addition, the state revokes the driving license for at least two years.
A second conviction increases the penalties. The jail time is up to one year and the fines may not be over $2,500. Illinois revokes the driving license for at least five years or until age 21, whichever is longer. Then there’s either at least five days in jail or 240 hours of community service.
Additional penalties apply if a DUI results in serious bodily harm or death. If it’s a third or later DUI. Having a DUI without a license. Or having one without insurance.
It’s a violation for anyone under 21 to have any alcohol in the their vehicle. For a first offense there’s a mandatory driver’s license suspension for one year. Others also in the vehicle can get a fine up to $1,000.
Illinois alcohol laws prohibits operating a water vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. People face conviction of boating under the influence (BUI) if one of the following applies. They
- Have a BAC of 0.08 or more.
- Test positive for illicit drugs.
- Suffer impairment by alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two such that they can’t safely operate the vessel.
A second offense is punishable by up to three years in prison and as much as $25,000 in fines.
If the operator receives a BUI while on a suspended license, the offense is a class four felony. The penalty is prison for up to three years and $25,000 in fines.
If a BUI offender is in an accident that causes the death of anyone, it’s a class two felony. The prison sentence is three to 14 years. And the fines are up to $25,000.
If a BUI occurs with anyone under age 16 in the vessel, the minimum fine is $500. In addition, the operator must do at least five days of community service. And the service must benefit children.
III. Resources on Illinois Alcohol Laws
- State Code
- Administrative Code, Title 11 (Alcohol…Rules and Regulations)
- Legislative Information
- State Supreme Court and Appellate Court Opinions
- Attorney General Opinions
- Illinois State Bar Association
- Liquor Control Commission
IV. Get Good Advice
Illinois’ alcohol laws can change. In fact, they do change. Also their interpretation changes. They can conflict. They can confuse. Lawyers study law for years. Never rely on this site. Nor on any other site.
Also, friends may give advice. Colleagues may give opinions. Neighbors may give suggestions. Smile and thank them. Then ignore them. Their advice is worth about what you payed for it. That is, nothing. Even worse, it can be misleading.
Get such information and advice about Illinois’ alcohol laws from a lawyer with license in the state. Alcohol laws and enforcement vary widely. For this reason, it’s a good idea to select an attorney in the relevant county or city.
Of course, the best advice of all is not to drink and drive.