Every state has laws concerning alcohol and drugs found in the possession of minors, regardless of whether they were using the substances. These are often referred to as minor in possession laws or else known as MIP.
Some states strictly enforce MIP laws and prosecute minors to the fullest extent of the law. In other states, however, a minor in an MIP case may be able to receive probation by entering a court-ordered diversionary program, getting medical help, and staying out of trouble.
State governments created minor in possession laws to: 1) Educate minors about the dangers of drinking and driving; 2) Get chemical dependency treatment and help for minors; 3) Involve minors in community service.
In some states, first time offenders convicted of MIP violations may have their driver’s license suspended for a period of time. If the minor doesn’t 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.
In other states’ MIP laws have punishments that are moderate for the first offense, but increase in severity for subsequent convictions.
You don’t always 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. Depending on your state’s laws, it may be sufficient to prove that you violated your state’s MIP laws if you:
Defenses against MIP charges can be raised, but the validity of the defenses depends largely upon state and local laws. Some MIP defenses include the following:
There Was No Alcohol in the Container Held by the Minor: The burden is on the defendant to show that the container they were 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 they 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, they may be able to defend a MIP charge.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.