Defenses to Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) Charges

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 What Are Minor in Possession (MIP) Charges?

Minor in Possession (MIP) is a transgression that happens when a person is found in possession of alcohol before they are of legal age to drink. MIP can also refer to a minor in possession of drugs or other illegal substances, but it generally refers to possession of alcohol. In all states, the minimum drinking age is 21 years old. Therefore, a person under 21 years old may face minor in possession charges if they are in possession of alcohol.

Nevertheless, there are many exceptions to minimum drinking age laws. These will depend on many elements which are different from state to state. Furthermore, MIP charges may interact in other ways with underage drinking laws, as the person often does not need to be drunk to be charged with MIP.

What Are MIP Laws?

State governments formed minor in possession laws to:

  • Familiarize minors about the risks of drinking and driving;
  • Get chemical reliance therapy and help for minors;
  • Involve minors in community service.

In California, first-time delinquents convicted of MIP offenses may have their driver’s license suspended for a year. If the minor doesn’t own a driver’s license, the court will instruct the Department of Motor Vehicles not to administer a license until a full year after the minor’s conviction.

Other states’ MIP laws have mild penalties for the first offense but an increase in harshness for ensuing convictions. If you seem intoxicated, you can be convicted of a MIP infraction in Missouri.

You don’t always have to be driving to be convicted of breaking a MIP law. You can still be convicted of a MIP offense if you are holding an unopened beer while under the state’s drinking age. You also don’t have to be legally drunk under your state’s DUI laws to be found condemnable of MIP.

What Are Zero Tolerance Policies?

It is illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to buy and possess alcohol in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And while driving under the influence of alcohol (normally 0.08 percent or higher blood-alcohol concentration) is illegal for all drivers, all states have so-called “zero-tolerance” regulations for underage DUI offenses.

Zero-tolerance laws make it a criminal DUI infraction for drivers under the age of 21 to drive with even a tiny amount of alcohol in their body, ranging from 0.00 to 0.02 percent BAC depending on the state. In light of such regulations, even a harmless glass of wine with dinner could subject a young driver to a DUI charge. But these laws intend to battle the genuine hazards of underage drinking.

Why Are Zero Tolerance Laws In Place?

According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, almost one-third of all deaths of 15- to 20-year-olds are the consequence of a motor vehicle collision, and about 35 percent of those deaths are alcohol-related. According to the NHTSA, the alcohol involvement rate for young drivers is approximately twice that of over-21 drivers. At the same time, underage drinking at even low levels introduces a more significant risk of fatal crashes.

The National Highway Systems Designation Act of 1995 demanded that states deem a 0.02 percent BAC (or lower) for under-21 drivers to be driving under the influence to qualify for Federal-Aid Highway Funds. To yield, as all states ultimately have, they had to set 0.02 percent BAC as what is understood as a “per se offense.” That means police don’t have to establish intoxication if the motorist is above the stated limit.

An NHTSA study analogizing the first 12 states to enforce zero-tolerance laws with 12 other states discovered that those with the law had a 20% reduction in catastrophic single-car nighttime wrecks with drivers under 21. These are typically the most likely to involve alcohol. Also, the most significant reductions in fatal collisions happened in states with underage BAC limits of 0.02 percent or less, while a smaller effect was witnessed in states with higher BAC limits.

Exceeding the clear threats to health and safety posed by underage drinking and driving, DUI transgressions can have long-ranging importance that reaches far into a young motorist’s fate. An early drunk driving conviction can affect employment background checks and car insurance coverage.

What Is Emancipation?

The emancipation of a minor refers to a court procedure through which a minor becomes self-supporting, takes adult accountability for their interests, and is no longer under the supervision of their parents. Upon reaching emancipation, the minor bears adulthood’s liberties, rights, and responsibilities before reaching the “age of majority” (adulthood). At that point, the minor’s parents are no longer accountable for the child and also have no claim to the minor’s earnings. During the court proceedings, and before giving emancipation, the court mainly evaluates the minors’ best interests and maturity level and whether minors can sustain themselves financially.

What Are the Advantages of Emancipation?

There are several advantages of emancipation. An emancipated minor:

  • Can enter into a contract (including lease, rental, and purchase deals),
  • Can sue,
  • Can enlist in a school of their choice,
  • Can apply for public benefits,
  • Can keep all income they earn, and
  • They can make all healthcare determinations for themselves.

There’s no longer any need for parents to help the emancipated minor, whether financially or in a caregiving purpose. After emancipation, child support duties also stop being proper.

These conditions work to make it attainable for emancipated minors to live and function on their own without the interference of a parental caretaker.

What Are Some Defenses to MIP?

There are several distinct defenses to minor in possession charges. These include:

  • Not an alcoholic beverage or illegal substance: Mistakes can often happen when police determine a drink or a substance.
  • Exceptions to minimum drinking age laws: As noted, some states have exceptions to minimum drinking age conditions. For example, underage drinking and, consequently, possession of alcohol may be permitted in some states under the following conditions: with parental permission; in a private, non-alcohol serving premises; for medical purposes; for educational purposes; for religious traditions; for government work/study objectives; and in some alcohol-selling establishments.
  • Coercion/force: It may be a defense if the individual was forced to drink alcohol under the threat of injury or harm.
  • Involuntary intoxication: It can be a defense if the individual’s mental capacity was affected due to involuntary intoxication. For example, if they were drugged without their knowledge.

Therefore, there can be many defenses to MIP charges. Furthermore, these will differ based on several other factors and elements.

What Are the Punishments of Minor in Possession of Alcohol?

MIP often results in either a citation or simple misdemeanor charges. This often leads to criminal fines or some brief jail time. In other instances, more severe criminal consequences may result, particularly for repeat convictions or for instances where there is severe property damage or serious physical injury involved.

Should I Hire a Lawyer If I Need Help with MIP Charges?

Minor in possession charges can frequently lead to severe consequences. You may need to hire a qualified juvenile lawyer if you or a loved one needs help defending against MIP charges. An attorney can supply you with legal guidance and tell you what kinds of legal alternatives are available. Also, your lawyer can be on hand to direct you during the court proceedings and hearings.

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