Social Host Law: for Students
#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. This means that if you host a party – even if it is BYOB – where you know there is underage drinking happening, you could be arrested and fined 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 penalties.
What does this mean for you? If you live either on or off-campus, this law applies to you. If you and your roommates host a party in your residence hall room or off-campus apartment and reasonably know that underage people (other than you) are drinking, then each resident could be fined $500 under the new law. Additionally, if someone who was drinking at your place leaves and becomes seriously harmed or seriously harms another (think sexual assault, death, being jumped/beat up) because they were drunk, 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, RA, etc.) calls the police to complain before the host does, then no protection is available.
What does this mean for you? If you are hosting a party 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, provide wristbands or mark ‘X’ on hands, remove people who break your rules, etc.), then if you need help managing your party or breaking it up you can call Campus Safety or the police to help and you cannot be charged or ticketed. If you only call after the police have received complaints from your neighbors though, you may be out of luck.
Since the law is technically in effect already, Campus Safety may enforce the law at any time by arresting irresponsible social hosts who violate applicable off-campus alcohol policies. The Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR) is still considering how this new law might affect campus policies for next fall. Some possibilities include updating the Student Code of Conduct to include increased fines and a specific policy directed toward social hosts.
Whatever changes may come to Loyola’s policies, one thing is clear: this law is in effect now throughout Illinois and savvy students should know the potential consequences and take reasonable steps to be responsible social hosts. After all, doing so is part of The Student Promise – to care for self, care for others, and care for the community. And there is nothing new about that.
Tim Love is Director of the OSCCR at Loyola University Chicago. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice.