When I first heard this, I thought it sounded obvious. Who would send a kid to prison for underage drinking? I was surprised something like this could happen in Illinois. It’s not the norm, but it happened to a girl who was found guilty of underage drinking in Champaign County. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled on the case to clarify the law in this area.
In Illinois, juveniles can be incarcerated, but only under certain circumstances. The Juvenile Court Act says that a minor can be committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice “only if a term of incarceration is permitted by law for adults found guilty of the offense.” So, a juvenile can’t be incarcerated if an adult can’t be incarcerated for the same thing. And obviously, an adult (defined as 21 or older) can’t be found guilty of underage drinking.
Despite the fact that the girl in question had already served her sentence, the court made its ruling to say that this state law needs to be followed and to give guidance to judges making similar decisions in the future.
From what I’ve read on the case of this girl from Champaign County, it seems there’s more to her story than a single night of underage drinking. She had been arrested for domestic violence, as well, and failed a drug test during her probation. So in that light, it seems like a mere technicality to say she should get off the hook because an adult can’t be guilty of underage drinking.
Still, it should take more to land kids in prison, which is basically what being committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice is. In my opinion, kids should be given more than one chance to turn things around (unless it’s an extreme case). This ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court is a step in the right direction.
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