Unsurprisingly, one of the leading Teenage and Juvenile Crime involves alcohol. Although illegal at the time, teenage drinking for those of us who grew up in the 1980s was hardly the big deal it is in today’s criminal justice system. “Back in the day”, police officers exercised discretion and either poured it out, or (I assume) took it back to the station for after the shift. If you were really unlucky in the 80s, the police took you home and you had to face your parents.
Those days are gone. Just ask any teen who the police have caught with alcohol. Many teens and their parents feel that underage drinking is unfairly treated as the number one Teenage and Juvenile Crime in many communities. Law enforcement’s message – we do not have any discretion and if we catch you, you will potentially have a criminal record that could stick with you well into adulthood.
Even the attempt to do so can result in a misdemeanor. A police officer does not need to view the minor in possession of, or consuming the alcohol, to issue a ticket. If the officer detects the presence of alcohol in the minor’s body through the use of a breathalyzer, blood test, or any other legal method, this is sufficient proof that the minor is in possession of alcohol.
A minor in possession charge, more commonly referred to as a M.I.P., can bring with it serious criminal consequences. Any minor found violating this law is subject to a $100 fine for their first offense and can be ordered by a court to take part in a substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation service. A second offense can result in criminal punishment of up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine. For any future offenses, a court can send the minor to jail for up to 60 days and impose a fine of up to $500.
For those that elect to plead guilty in a criminal proceeding or those that enter a plea in a juvenile delinquency proceeding, the State of Michigan has provided probation options to avoid having to serve jail time and having the charge on your public record. If a minor pleads guilty, a judge has the option to defer the sentencing and any further proceedings and place the minor on probation. The benefit to this is that if the minor completes each term of probation (usually requiring attending a substance abuse program among other things) then the court can choose to discharge and dismiss the charges. While a nonpublic record will still be maintained for purposes of punishment if the minor is charged with another M.I.P., a discharge allows the M.I.P. to be hidden from any public searches. The minor’s criminal history of pleading guilty to a M.I.P. will not be viewable by future employers or anyone else performing a background check.
Unfortunately, teenagers and their parents are often poorly informed regarding the possible consequences of a MIP. Many courts, whose efforts seem focused on keeping the docket moving, do not adequately inform parents and teens of the significant consequences – and court costs – involved in a MIP case.
Thus, it is important to obtain legal representation if you or someone you love is “only” charged with MIP. Having a criminal record at a young age can make getting a job, going to college, and other important life steps very difficult. Contact an experienced Minor in Possession criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a MIP to get a better understanding of your options.