Social Host Law: for Faculty & Staff
#1: If you let underage drinking occur in your residence, you are committing a crime.
The law arguably changes Illinois’ long-time legal position that those who choose to drink are generally responsible for their own decisions, placing greater responsibility on those who host underage drinkers. Specifically, the law provides that a person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor who authorizes or permits underage individuals to possess or consume alcohol in the person’s residence. Violators are subject to arrest and fines between $500 and $2,500.
Additionally, if violation of this law directly or indirectly results in “great bodily harm or death” to any person, the social host is guilty of a Class 4 felony. This means a minimum of one year in jail, among other very serious fines and penalties.
What does this mean for you? Many staff and faculty commonly invite students to their homes for holiday parties, organizational meetings, class events, or other functions. This law means that special care should be taken to ensure that no one under 21 is consuming alcohol. If you host an alcohol event for students at your residence – even if it is BYOB or “just wine with dinner” – you may be breaking the law if you know some of the students to be under 21. Additionally, if someone who was drinking at your residence leaves and becomes seriously harmed or seriously harms another (think sexual assault, death, being beat up, car accident) because they became intoxicated at your residence, you could end up in jail and face other life-changing penalties.
#2: If you call for help to prevent underage drinking you may avoid criminal liability.
It is just as important to know that the law also creates a “safe harbor” for those who are responsibly trying to prevent underage drinking and need assistance doing so. Specifically, the new law provides that hosts “shall not be in violation” if they request police assistance (a) to remove an underage guest who refuses to stop drinking, or (b) to end the party because guests won’t be compliant. There is one catch to this: if someone else (a neighbor, etc.) calls the police to complain before the host does, then no protection is available.
What does this mean for you? If you host an event and make it clear to your guests that underage drinking is not permitted, and you take reasonable steps to ensure it doesn’t happen (check IDs, monitor consumption of alcohol by guests), then if you need to call Campus Safety or the police to help, then you cannot be charged. If you only call after the police have received complaints from your neighbors though, you may be out of luck.
Since this is a Illinois state law, Campus Safety and the Chicago Police Department may enforce it at any time by arresting offenders.
Savvy staff and faculty members should take steps to inform themselves about these alcohol related policies and ensure compliance. After all, underage drinking is illegal in Illinois, and there is nothing new about that.
Tim Love is the Associate Dean of Students in the Office of the Dean of Students at Loyola University Chicago. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.