In the Teenage and Juvenile Crime arena, a Minor in Possession (MIP) conviction is quite common as underage drinking continues to be a popular pastime. With the amount of drinking on some college campuses, institutions of higher learning may as well have varsity drinking teams. Time and again we are reminded that alcohol abuse kills, whether it is the young fraternity pledge who drinks himself to death, or a young drunk driver involved in a fatal accident.
However, many people feel that an MIP is a youthful indiscretion that shouldn't negatively affect the rest of someone's life. In that spirit, the Michigan House of Representatives recently passed a bill by an overwhelming majority (105-1) to reduce a first MIP down to a civil infraction. The Michigan Senate approved the bill back in March, so once the governor signs the bill, it will become law in Michigan.
The bill, sponsored by state Senator Rick Jones (R) from Grand Ledge focused on making sure a mistake from one's youth doesn't "permanently mar their record."
While criminalizing first-time underage drinking may be over-the-top, make no mistake about it, there are more pragmatic forces at work than a benvolent attitude towards first-time offenders. Indeed, MIP cases have overwhelmed already taxed District Courts and something needed to be done to alleviate the strain. As is often the case, it comes down to dollars and cents. Recent statistics from the Michigan State Police show that law enforcement agencies in the state of Michigan issue over 7,000 MIP charges per year. Additionally, counties with college towns have amongst the largest number of annual arrests and convictions. Leading the way from the 2009-2013 time span examined in the state police report was Ingham County, home of Michigan State University, with 863 citations issued.
The new MIP civil infraction will be punishable by a fine of $100 instead of the current fine plus possible jail time. That said, a subsequent MIP will still be considered a misdemeanor with a second offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine and a third offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, and possible revocation of one's drivers license.
If you have recently been cited or arrested for a Teenage and Juvenile Crime, or for being a Minor in Possession of alcohol, or have any questions or concerns about this new law, you should contact an attorney immediately. Michigan Attorney John Freeman has been practicing criminal law for the entirety of his 23-year career and he and his staff are available to help.