On January 1, 2016, a new Illinois amnesty law went into effect which offers the chance of immunity to underage drinkers who call 911 to get medical help for themselves or someone else. House Bill 1336 was debated and signed into law last year (2015).
Why Illinois Changed Policy on Underage Drinking
Prior to the signing of this new law, teens could be cited for underage drinking if they called to request medical assistance for themselves or others while in an alcohol-related situation. Often times, teens were reluctant to call 911 for help, even if they or someone else was in need of medical assistance due to the likelihood that they would have to deal with legal consequences for underage drinking. This led to many teens dying as a result of not receiving the help they needed.
2016 Amendments to Illinois Liquor Control Act: Immunity for Underage Drinkers
House Bill 1336 proposed to amend Section 6-20 of the Liquor Control Act of 1934 by adding subsection (i) and (j), which reads:
- (i)A law enforcement officer may not charge or otherwise take a person into custody based solely on the commission of an offense that involves alcohol and violates subsection (d) or (e) of this Section if the law enforcement officer, after making a reasonable determination and considering the facts and surrounding circumstances, reasonably believes that all of the following apply
- (j) A person who meets the criteria of paragraphs (1) and (2) of subsection (i) of this Section shall be immune from criminal liability for an offense under subsection (d) or (e) of this Section
Subsection (d) restricts the purchasing, acceptance, or possession of alcohol in any way that violates the entire section. This includes forbidding alcohol purchase, acceptance, or possession for those under the age of 21. Subsection (e) restricts the consumption of alcohol for those under age 21.
Subsection (i) makes an exception where an underage drinker cannot be charged, cited, or arrested for offending subsections (d) or (e) if they meet a certain set of circumstances listed under subsection (i). Subsection (j), however, mandates that anyone who meets the first two criteria listed under subsection (i) may be immune to criminal liability for offending subsections (d) or (e).
Subsection (i): 2 Reasons a Person Cannot be Charged with Underage Drinking in Illinois
- The reason a law enforcement officer has contact with the individual is because that individual was seeking medical assistance for someone who seemed to be in reasonable need of medical assistance due to drinking alcohol, or because the individual collaborated with another person who called for medical assistance. Only a maximum of three individuals can be eligible for immunity in a collaborative effort.
- The same individual or individuals above provide his/her/their full name and other relevant information to the police officer, they remain at the scene with the person who needs medical assistance until medical assistance arrives, and they cooperate with the medical assistance personnel and the police officers at the scene
According to subsection (i), individuals who are determined by police officers at the scene to have met these two criteria are protected from being charged, cited or arrested at the scene. Furthermore, under subsection (j), they are also immune to any criminal liability that is directly related to underage alcohol consumption, purchase or possession of alcohol.
Saving Lives by Eliminating Fear of Prosecution
Ultimately, the goal of this new Illinois law is to create room in underage drinking laws so teens won't hold back on calling for necessary medical assistance for fear of legal consequences. While the threat of criminal or legal consequences might make someone think twice about dialing 911, the new law mitigates the threat as long as the person engaged in underage drinking acts in good faith in seeking medical attention for a person in need.
Hopefully, as more teens feel they can freely call for alcohol-related medical assistance without the threat of legal repercussions, the number of alcohol-related casualties in persons under the age of 21 will diminish because people will get the help they need.
Spread Awareness of New Illinois Underage Drinking Immunity Law
Just because a law is passed doesn't necessarily mean everyone is aware of it, or that law enforcement officers will stringently follow it. If you are involved in a case where an underage drinker is given a citation or charged with underage drinking while seeking medical assistance for themselves or someone else, give us a call. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help them seek immunity or lesser penalties based on the circumstances of the individual case.
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in DuPage County and Chicago, Illinois
If you or a family member have been arrested or ticketed for underage drinking, the criminal lawyers at Dolci & Weiland can help. Regardless of whether you or your loved one can qualify for immunity, a good lawyer can help achieve a better result in your case – even in cases that do not involve medical assistance and underage drinking. To speak with a lawyer about your case please contact us at
(630) 261-9098 – DuPage County and Chicago Suburbs
(312) 238-9007 – Chicago