DuPage County is home to many prestigious private colleges and academic institutions which help young students achieve promising futures. However, the abundance of excellent schools in cities such as Naperville, Wheaton, Lisle, or Elmhurst means that the police departments of DuPage County often crack down on underage drinking among college students under the age of 21. Oftentimes, what started out as a fun weekend can quickly turn into an underage drinking charge if you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As experienced criminal defense attorneys who have practiced law for decades, we meet many concerned students and parents who plead guilty to an underage drinking charge, only to be slammed with driver's license suspensions and revoked scholarships and financial aid, or worse.
Illinois Underage Drinking Charges are More Serious Than You Think
What most students charged with underage drinking quickly discover, is that while underage drinking may seem like a minor infraction, it can lead to significant consequences which can impact your life, both in the present and in the future.
You might be wondering: what should I do, then, if I have been charged with underage drinking?
The good news is that you have options. Keep reading to learn about the possible consequences of an Illinois or DuPage County underage drinking conviction, and what your legal options are if you have been charged.
**There is an Illinois law which grants legal immunity to individuals under 21 who call 911 to seek assistance for themselves or a peer during a medical emergency. Read more about it here.**
Consequences of a DuPage County Underage Drinking Conviction
The state of Illinois treats underage drinking very seriously. Depending on whether you are prosecuted by the state or a municipality, an underage drinking conviction can result in very serious consequences. In fact, some severe cases of underage drinking end up classified as a Class A Misdemeanor and can result in fines and jail time.
Much of the consequences of an underage drinking case depends on whether the case is charged and prosecuted by the state or a city. Your case might take place in DuPage County, but it may be tried by a specific village or city in DuPage County, or by the State's Attorney of Illinois. Typically, a state underage drinking charge is treated more severely and can lead to harsher penalties. However, many city underage drinking charges can just as easily incur strong penalties.
Ultimately, each city in DuPage County may handle underage drinking cases differently, depending on the prosecutors and judges assigned to your case. Below are some consequences you may face if you are convicted of underage drinking.
Driver's License Suspension or Revocation
The standard penalty for an underage drinking conviction is driver's license suspension or revocation by the Illinois Secretary of State. Essentially all underage drinking convictions will result in a suspended driver's license, although the lengths of suspension may vary. In cases of three or more convictions, your license may be revoked. Regardless of the length of suspension or revocation, a loss of driving privileges can have a significant impact on your day-to-day life and create obstacles you may never have imagined.
Typically, the suspension / revocation periods are as follows:
- Court Supervision -- 3 Months Suspended License
- 1st Conviction -- 6 Months Suspended License
- 2nd Conviction -- 1 Year Suspended License
- Subsequent Convictions -- Revoked License
Jail Time for Underage Drinking Conviction
Possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21 in a public place is classified by the state of Illinois as a Class A Misdemeanor, which can carry a maximum of a one-year jail sentence. In more severe cases of underage drinking, a conviction can most definitely lead to jail time for the defendant.
Underage Drinking Fines
Following a conviction, you may be subject to fines, whether that includes ordinance tickets, municipal fines, or misdemeanor fines of up to $2,500. The fines you owe will vary, and they usually depend on the jurisdiction of your case, the circumstances of your arrest/charge, and the prosecutor and judge assigned to you.
In many municipalities and counties, community service might be offered as an alternative method to lighten some of the other penalties for your case. Whether you can participate in community service as a part of your sentence depends on the details of your case and the prosecutor assigned to you. If you have a lawyer, you can also ask about community service to see if this is a viable option for you.
Alcohol Education Programs About Underage Drinking
Many municipalities may require you to participate in an Alcohol Education Program (AEP) or awareness courses. These programs are intended to educate about the risks and responsibilities associated with drinking. There may be legal benefits to completing a course. Again, that's something an experienced attorney can advise you on
Loss of Scholarships and Financial Aid
While this may vary with each academic institution, the scholarships and financial aid offered by colleges are often contingent on good behavior and lawfulness. Each scholarship is different, but we have worked closely with many clients whose scholarships and financial capabilities for attending college all depend on the results of their underage drinking case. If this is the case for you, it is especially important to talk to an experienced lawyer about fighting your case and protecting your academic interests and future.
Impact of Underage Drinking on Future Education or Career
Many colleges and places of employment conduct background checks into applicants and inquire about previous criminal history. Each school or company may have different guidelines and philosophies regarding individuals with an underage drinking conviction, but it can often be the case that an underage drinking conviction can damage your future prospects, whether those include a full-time job or attending graduate school.
How An Experienced Underage Drinking Defense Attorney Can Help You
While all counties in Illinois share the same underage drinking laws, different cities may have different strategies of handling and sentencing cases, depending on the municipality, assigned judge, assigned prosecutor, and a number of other factors.
In fact, in DuPage County alone, there are multiple underage drinking prosecutors, and that's just for underage drinking cases which don't involve driving under the influence (DUI).
Because many local factors can significantly impact your case, it is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer who has experience practicing in the county of your case.
Consider it a bit of a home-field advantage; a lawyer who is in and out of the county courtrooms every day and regularly working with the village and county prosecutors assigned to you will know what to expect for your case and the best ways to defend you in court.
Contact DuPage County Underage Drinking and Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you or your family member are facing underage drinking charges, we are here to help.
With over 60 years of combined legal experience, the defense attorneys at Dolci & Weiland are more than familiar with representing clients charged with underage drinking in DuPage County, Illinois. We offer aggressive and strategic legal defense to our clients to protect their interests and their future. To speak with an attorney today, contact our offices at (630) 261-9098.