Illinois Alcohol Laws: It’s Best to Know the Laws about Alcohol

This page will help you understand Illinois alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. As well as wasted time and legal costs.

Illinois alcohol laws apply to both residents and visitors. It’s easy for visitors to forget that alcohol laws differ across the country. Even within a state. But not knowing the law is no legal defense.

I.   Minimum Ages
II.  Other Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV. Get Good Advice

I. Minimum Ages

Young people often want part-time jobs. Many jobs 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 drinking on-site. And they permit them to sell alcohol for use off-site.

Those under 21 may not buy alcohol. Using a false ID to buy it is a crime. Nor may those under 21 drive with any blood in their system. That is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.00%.

People of any age under 21 may drink. But it must be in a private residence with a parent or guardian present.

II. Other Illinois Alcohol Laws

A. Selling Alcohol

illinois alcohol lawsIt’s also a violation of Illinois alcohol laws to sell or serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. That includes adults aged 18, 19, and 20.

The penalty for doing so is a fine up to $2,500. In addition, jail for up to one year. That’s for a first offense. Multiple convictions can lead to jail 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 jail for up to one year. And also a fine of $500 to $2,500.

B. Buying Alcohol

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy alcohol. Or even to attempt buying it. For a first offense, the penalty is driver’s license suspension for three months. And also court supervision for six months. For a second conviction, 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.

House Parties. 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. Learn about a house party leading in two teens dying.

The town of South Holland is dry. That is, it permits no sale or purchase of alcohol.

C. Driving and 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. Yet 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. But for using the Constitutional 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 for using the right decline 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 lawsIllinois alcohol laws prohibit driving with a BAC over 0.00. Most states set the limit at 0.02%. That’s because of the unreliability of breath testers. In addition, all humans naturally produce alcohol in their bodies. And many meds as well as foods contain alcohol.

So setting the limit well 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. Also, 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 are up to $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. Or any of these facts. 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 required driver’s license suspension for one year. Others in the vehicle can get a fine up to $1,000.

D. Boating and Alcohol

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.

illinois alcohol lawsThe penalties of BUI conviction vary by circumstances and the judge. But these are the usual penalties. For a first offense, the penalty is jail for up to 364 days and a fine up to $2,600.

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 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 felony as well. 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

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. So 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 facts and advice about Illinois’ alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer with a 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.


So now you know more about Illinois alcohol laws than most residents of the state!