Many states have minor in possession (MIP) laws concerning alcohol and drugs found in the possession of minors, regardless of whether they were using the substances.
Some states strictly enforce MIP laws and prosecute minors to the fullest extent of the law. In other states, however, a minor in a MIP case may be able to receive probation by entering a court-ordered diversionary program, getting medical help, and staying out of trouble.
MIP Laws: What Are They?
State governments created minor in possession laws to:
Educate minors about the dangers of drinking and driving;
Get chemical dependency treatment and help for minors;
Involve minors in community service.
In California, first time offenders convicted of MIP violations may have their driver’s license suspended for a year. If the minor does not have a driver’s license, the court will order the Department of Motor Vehicles not to issue a license until a full year after the minor’s conviction.
Other states’ MIP laws have punishments that are moderate for the first offense, but increase in severity for subsequent convictions. In Missouri, you can be convicted of an MIP violation if you simply appear intoxicated.
You do not have to be driving to be convicted of violating a MIP law. If you are holding an unopened beer, and you are under the state’s drinking age, you can still be convicted of a MIP offense.
You also don’t have to be legally drunk under your state’s DUI laws to be found guilty of MIP.
The fact that you:
1) are younger than the legal drinking age at time of the citation; and
2) had alcohol in your possession; or
3) attempted to buy alcohol; or
4) drank alcohol
may be sufficient to prove that you violated your state’s MIP laws, or the laws of another state that you were visiting.
MIP Violations and Losing Your Driver’s License
Some states require multiple MIP convictions before you permanently lose your license. Other states, such as California, can take away your driver’s license for a single MIP offense.
Defenses to Minor in Possession Charges
Defenses against MIP charges can be raised, but the validity of the defenses depends largely upon state and local laws.
Some MIP defenses include:
There Was No Alcohol in the Container Held by the Minor
The burden is on the defendant to show that the container s/he was holding lacked alcohol.
The Minor Legally Consumed Alcohol
Some states allow 19 and 20 year olds legally consume alcohol. In Michigan, for example, a 19 year old may contest a MIP charge by claiming s/he drank alcohol legally in Wisconsin or Canada where it is perfectly legal for them to drink alcohol.
The Alcohol Was Consumed in a Religious Service
If a minor drank alcohol as part of a religious service (e.g., sacramental wine, Sabbath wine), s/he may be able to defend a MIP charge.
Minor in Possession (MIP) Charges – Your Legal Rights
If you or a loved one experienced face legal charges of violating your state’s MIP laws, you may be able to defend and fight the charge in court.
It is very important that you contact a DUI or criminal defense attorney to learn how they may be able to help you or your family in a MIP case.
Some of the legal factors that a minor in possession defense attorney can review with you include:
Whether you or your loved ones, given the particular facts of your case, actually violated city or state law;
Whether the arresting police or law enforcement officer followed the law;
Whether your conduct did or did not constitute a criminal violation; and
Whether you have an affirmative defense to the MIP case.
MIP Laws – Getting Legal Help