Illinois considering bill allowing 18 year olds to drink under parent’s supervision

House Bill 494, a bill pending in the Illinois legislature, would allow 18 to 21 year olds to drink beer or wine in the presence and supervision of a parent or guardian, including restaurants whose primary purpose is not the sale of alcohol.

According to Eater Chicago, 10 other states already allow this.  They are Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

What do you think?

Maryland Attorney General has lost his “moral compass” when it comes to underage drinking

The Attorney General is the gent in the white shirt holding a cell phone.

The Attorney General is the gent in the white shirt holding a cell phone.

Here is an interesting news story from the East Coast:  it was revealed that the Attorney General of Maryland, Douglas Gansler, was present at an underage party where alcohol was being consumed.  Of course, in this day of cell phone cameras, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, this didn’t remain an unreliable rumor.  Gansler claims that he was only there briefly to talk to his son, who was at the party, about plans for the following day (what, he couldn’t have sent his son a text?).

From the Baltimore Sun:

Gansler, a Democrat who is running for governor, said this week that he stopped by the Delaware beach house to talk briefly with his teenage son and then left. He said he does not remember whether he saw anyone drinking. But even if he had, Gansler said, it was not his responsibility as a parent or a high-ranking law enforcement official to intervene.

“Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party,” Gansler said. “How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state? I say no.”

Really, Mr. Gansler?  Here is more of that Baltimore Sun article:

Gansler has publicly advocated against underage drinking, appearing less than a year ago in a video for the Century Council, a nonprofit that works to combat both teen drinking and drunken driving.

“Parents, you’re the leading influence on your teen’s decision not to drink,” Gansler said in a video filmed as part of the organization’s “Ask, Listen, Learn” initiative to persuade parents to talk to middle-school children about drinking. “It’s never too early to talk with your kids about smart ways to say no.”

Century Council’s CEO and president Ralph Blackman, upon learning that Gansler had been at such a party, said, “Let me pick myself up off the floor here.”

I should point out that in our state, Illinois, it is a class A misdemeanor to host a gathering or otherwise allow underage people to consume alcohol.  And that goes up to a Class 4 felony if the alcohol consumption results in injury or death.

More Teen Deaths from Texting and Driving than Drunk Driving

From The

Teen deaths from texting and driving have outnumbered those from drunk driving. A study conducted by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Hyde, New York, revealed that over 3,000 teens deaths per year are associated with texting while driving.

In comparison, researchers found that around 2,700 teens died in accidents attributed to driving drunk. The discrepancy may have something to do with ease of access.

Dr. Andrew Adesman of the Cohen Children’s Center points out that while teens may not drink on a daily basis, they always carry their cell phones. Constant access may make it difficult for teens to ignore text messages and phone calls.

As reported by CBS News, despite education about the dangers, over 50 percent of teens admit texting while driving. Additionally, researchers found that laws against texting while driving have little impact. Fifty-seven percent of the teens surveyed admitted texting and driving, even in states where it is against the law.

The US Department of Transportation and the National Highways Traffic Safety Administration have partnered to present The website offers facts and statistics, along with real stories of lives shattered due to driving while texting or distracted.

According to the site, teen drivers are the most likely to drive while texting or otherwise distracted. Eleven percent of teens involved in fatal accidents were reportedly distracted when they crashed.

Drivers who are using cell phones while driving ate four times more likely to get into an accident. The average text takes 4.6 seconds to send or receive. In 4.6 seconds, the average vehicle, traveling 55 mph, can travel the length of a football field.

As of this month, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association reports that 10 US states, including D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have prohibited all hand-held cell phone usage while driving.

This story was brought to my attention by Indiana DUI Attorney Gregg Stark.

What should be the legal limit for driving with marijuana in your system?

Illinois is a zero tolerance state when it comes to driving with marijuana in your blood.  In other words, you can smoke pot late one Saturday night and be charged with a DUI a week later because it was still in your blood system. I have blogged about this before, including this memorable post about a young woman who received a seven year sentence after being involved in a fatal crash several days after smoking cannabis.

But now that other states are allowing for medical marijuana, or legalizing it, those states are debating “legal limits” for cannabis.

Washington TV station KIRO TV ran their own tests, which showed that coming up with a legal limit isn’t easy, because everyone has different tolerances.

There have been some interesting blog posts in response to KIRO’s report.

Jacob Sullum on has an interesting discussion, including these thoughts:

the fact that “the intoxicating effects of marijuana vary…from person to person,” which helps explain how Norton was still OK to drive at 36.7 nanograms, is relevant, but it cuts both ways. Perhaps some people are impaired at five nanograms, but it seems clear that many are not. Setting a low cutoff may seem like erring on the side of caution, but that is true only if you discount the injustice of arresting and punishing people for driving under the influence when they do not actually pose a hazard to others. The variation in responses to marijuana, which is partly a function of tolerance and experience … but also due to pre-existing differences, argues against having any sort of per se standard.

Over on Mother Jones’ website, Josh Harkinson points out that:

Ten states, many of which have legalized medical marijuana, simply make it illegal to drive with any trace of marijuana in your blood. Other states essentially regulate the drug like alcohol, requiring drivers to stay below a set limit of cannabinoids in their blood. When Washington voters legalized pot last November, they also outlawed driving with a blood THC level over 5 nanograms per milliliter—about half the level detected in Koon. Ohio and Nevada’s limit is even stricter: 2 ng/ml. These rules appeal to a public accustomed to drunk-driving standards, and they give police a simple benchmark for making arrests.

But these approaches don’t account for what scientists know about marijuana’s effects on drivers. “The reality is that alcohol and cannabis are two very different drugs that affect people in very different ways,” says Jan Ramaekers, a psychology and neuroscience professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. A 2009 study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that THC can persist in chronic pot smokers’ blood for a week after they stop smoking, sometimes at levels in excess of 3 ng/ml. Other research shows that those residual blood levels (and sometimes even much higher levels) don’t impair most heavy users’ psychomotor skills. If the goal is to arrest only people who are driving dangerously, Ramaekers says, then laws like Washington’s could lead to a rash of false convictions.While booze can make people drive faster and more aggressively, marijuana has the opposite effect: Pot smokers, studies show, tend to compensate for their impairment by slowing down and leaving larger gaps between themselves and other cars. Still, Ramaekers cautions against thinking that stoners acting like Sunday drivers are safer. Marijuana users may “try to create their own box of safety, and within that world they can operate fine,” he says. “But there’s a lot of other information outside of that box that they can’t process, and that is a problem.”

What do you think?

New Underage Consumption Case strengthens Parental Supervision Exception

A new Illinois Appellate opinion was issued last week that addresses the issue of the “parental supervision” exception to our underage drinking law.

In the case, People v. Haase, 2012 Ill.App. (2d) 110220, Daniel Haase’s parents held a gathering in their home to celebrate his receiving his GED.  Although he was under the age of 21, his parents allowed him to drink one glass of a wine cooler.  Later that night, he left home to help a friend with a disabled truck.  When sheriffs responded to a call of a disabled vehicle, they encountered Mr. Haase and detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath.  He admitted consumption of alcohol and was arrested.  He agreed to submit to a breath test, disclosing a BAC of 0.037.

The underage consumption law (235 ILCS 5/6-20) states:

Sec. 6-20. Transfer, possession, and consumption of alcoholic liquor; restrictions.
(a) Any person to whom the sale, gift or delivery of any alcoholic liquor is prohibited because of age shall not purchase, or accept a gift of such alcoholic liquor or have such alcoholic liquor in his possession…
(e) The consumption of alcoholic liquor by any person under 21 years of age is forbidden.
(f) Whoever violates any provisions of this Section shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.
(g) The possession and dispensing, or consumption by a person under 21 years of age of alcoholic liquor in the performance of a religious service or ceremony, or the consumption by a person under 21 years of age under the direct supervision and approval of the parents or parent or those persons standing in loco parentis of such person under 21 years of age in the privacy of a home,is not prohibited by this Act.

At trial, the defendant relied on the statutory “parental supervision” exception as a defense.  However, the prosecution argued that the law required the parent to continue to directly supervise the defendant until all alcohol had been eliminated from his blood.  The trial judge agreed with the State, and found the defendant guilty.

On appeal, the case was reversed.  The Appellate Court stated,

Defendant argues that the exemption requires that a parent directly supervise his consumption of alcohol, not his actions after consuming the alcohol, and the language of the statute supports his position. The exemption decriminalizes “the consumption by a person under 21 years of age under the direct supervision and approval of the parents.” 235 ILCS 5/6-20(g) (West 2008). This language is plain in requiring the direct supervision of the consumption of the alcohol; it says nothing about the necessity of parental supervision once the consumption is done. To interpret the exemption as requiring parents to directly supervise their children until the alcohol has been completely metabolized would be to read into the exemption a requirement the legislature did not express…

[T]he State’s interpretation of the statute—requiring the supervising parent to directly supervise the minor until all of the alcohol has been metabolized—would lead to an absurd result.  As defendant points out, to require a parent to directly supervise his or her minor child until all of the alcohol has been metabolized would place such an untenable burden on the parent that few parents would be willing or able to comply. To ascertain whether the minor had completely metabolized all of the alcohol, the parent would have to administer a breath test, which requires special equipment and training.

I think it is important to note that the case distinguished the facts of this case with those of an earlier case where a parent had not been carefully monitoring her son’s drinking.  Also, the opinion only addresses the offense of underage drinking — in other words, parental supervision of drinking is not a defense if the underaged person were to leave the home and get a DUI, for instance.  In that situation, not only could the underaged person face a criminal charge, but the parent might be charged as well.