Minor in Possession – Michigan MIP Lawyer
Minor in Possession of Alcohol – MIP – West Michigan Minor in Possession Lawyer
UPDATE January 2017. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Minor in Possession reform legislation to the new Michigan minor in possession MIP law that makes a first offense of Minor in Possession a civil infraction punishable by a $100 fine (plus possible community service hours and substance abuse classes). What this means, is that a first MIP offender would not have to try to obtain the MIP First Offender Diversion Program to keep an MIP charge off of their record. Instead, a first offense would be treated much like a speeding ticket (a civil infraction) and would no longer be a criminal misdemeanor. However, a second or subsequent offense would still be a misdemeanor. Over 9,300 minors were charged for MIP offenses in 2014. Unfortunately, the Minor in Possession new legislation does not go into effect until January 1, 2018.
— MIP Amnesty? Read below.
The Drinking Age in Michigan is Arbitrary.
Everyone says it's unfair. Michigan laws says you must be 21 years old to drink, possess, or buy alcohol. For everything else in life you're an adult at 18: you can get married, drown in credit card and student debt, but you can't buy, possess, or drink a drop of alcohol. This law is almost universally despised. Yet, it's vigorously enforced, particularly at certain schools. Campus police at Grand Valley State University, MSU and other state schools have issued a lot of MIP tickets.
HAVE YOU BEEN TICKETED? There's a lot of "how to" advice below. Read it – be informed.
How to avoid getting an MIP Ticket.
This may sound really complicated – it's not. Remain Silent. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled many times that a "citizen has no duty to stop and answer questions when approached by police officer in public place and may decline to listen to questions at all and go on his way." You can remain silent and refuse to answer questions.
What to do if you're given an MIP Ticket.
Plead NOT GUILTY at the arraignment (your first court date), read the rest of this page, and talk with an MIP lawyer as soon as possible.
Minor in Possession (MIP)
Minor in possession (MIP) – just like it sounds. You're under age 21 and caught with alcohol (the law calls it "intoxicating liquor" or "intoxicating beverage"). You possessed it in your fridge, car, backpack, hand or body. You can be busted for MIP for an empty (returnable) beer can in your car. The can or bottle does not have to open. Holding or possessing alcohol is enough; the law doesn't care if you've drank the booze or not. We know of students busted for MIP because they posted themselves – with beer can in hand – on Facebook. "Welcome to the jungle…" (GNR)
→ Booze in your fridge is enough for an MIP. . .
If police smell alcohol on you, or if you're holding a beer can, or a mixed drink you will be charged with MIP. Minor in Possession charges are most common where students admit to a cop that: "they had a couple drinks." Such a "voluntary" confession comes after a police interrogation (a/k/a "questioning" see below). If you admit to drinking – expect to be criminally charged with Minor in Possession (MIP).
MIP is a criminal offense known as a misdemeanor. This conviction is forever placed in your criminal history file and on your driver's license. For a first offense the fine is $100 with no jail time. However, there are many courts that place first time offenders on 12 months of probation and jail them if they violate probation. The fines and penalties increase for a second or third conviction, with jail time and mandatory driver's license suspensions.
Preliminary Breath Tests (PBT)
See the PBT machine over on the right? Yeah, that one. I call it the Incriminator. This portable breath test machine is NOT your friend. Even though police can no longer require you to take this test, they still use them to determine who has been drinking and thus, who will be charged with MIP.
Police are trained to act authoritative and commanding; they count on you being scared, nervous, and unaware of your right against self-incrimination. Admitting you had a drink may seem like the best thing to do when the police question you. Wrong Thinking!
Police can "ask" anyone to take a PBT test. However, it is your Constitutional right to refuse the test and refuse to answer incriminating questions. In our opinion, being "asked" by a cop to take a test is intimidating and not voluntary. We think this practice should be stopped. Saying "no" or refusing to answer questions by a police officer takes a lot of backbone. Most were taught to obey cops without question — thus the "request" is really not a request at all… Interestingly, the City of Flint does not allow its police to "ask" minors to "voluntarily" blow into a PBT machine.
Most remember too well their first anxious encounter with a police officer. Here is an age old truism: police officers put their pants on one leg at a time. You do not need to be afraid! Here is sage advice from our twenty two plus years of criminal defense experience:
→ DECLINE the PBT – DECLINE to answer questions. . .
Police cannot force you to blow into a PBT nor answer questions. There is no penalty for refusing a PBT test (this assumes you are not the driver of a car). Police line everyone up and "ask" each person to blow into the Incriminator. Most mistakenly assume the law requires that you blow. It used to, but that law was struck down as unconstitutional. You don't have to blow and they cannot force you. If you refuse to blow into the Incriminator the cops will have to find another way to prove your guilt. Chances are, they will move on to an easier target.
Common Ways to get Incriminating Statements.
Here are the most common ways to get you to incriminate yourself. A police officers asks: "So, you been drinking tonight?" or "how many drinks have you had?" Police will often act as though they are your parents and say things like: "tell me the truth – don't lie to me." Of course what you don't realize is that you don't have to answer or say anything.
The cop will (truthfully) tell you if you blow into the Incriminator you "won't go to jail." He's right. But what you don't realize is that he's not planning on arresting and taking you to jail. A first offense is not jailable anyway. Arresting and booking someone into jail takes a lot of time and paperwork. It's much easier to issue MIP citations and move on.
Police will also say if you blow "it will go easier for you." Wrong. By admitting you were drinking or by blowing into the Incriminator, you just handed the prosecutor an easy case. It is very easy to convict someone who confesses to a crime. Too many admit: "well, I had a couple drinks," as though this will somehow magically make things work out better. It doesn't. Whether you had one drink or ten: confess and you will be charged.
You live in a country that is still the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." Choose to exercise your Constitutional rights, the ones this country was founded on; the ones that brave soldiers have died to protect.
You do not have to say anything.
You do not have to answer questions.
You do not have to blow into the Incriminator.
You (usually) do not have to identify yourself nor provide ID.
The worst the cops can do is detain you for awhile to determine your identity. If you've not committed a crime – they have to let you go. We suggest you say something like: "Officer, I respect you and your job, but I have nothing to say without an attorney present." Repeat this line over and over. If they threaten to arrest you then hold out your wrists. If you answer incriminating questions, rest assured your statements WILL be used against you. By the time you are read your Miranda warnings, if at all, it is too late.
What to do at your First Court Appearance.
→ Plead NOT Guilty!
There are thousands of MIP tickets written every year. Most underage individuals make the mistake of blowing into the Incriminator or admitting they were drinking. Underage drinking and MIP tickets are so common that many think of an MIP conviction as no big deal. Wrong thinking. Here is our sage advice after witnessing hundreds of college students naively plead guilty at their first court appearance: plead not guilty and consult an MIP lawyer.
Hire an Experienced MIP Lawyer.
Plead NOT GUILTY at your arraignment (usually your first court date) and hire an MIP experienced lawyer. This is a cheap investment in the rest of your life. We will evaluate police contact and give you advice. You may qualify for the First Offender or Diversionary Program. Click this link to read more:" MIP First Offender Program. The MIP ticket is confusing because it looks and feels just like a speeding ticket. It's not! If you plead guilty and pay the $100 fine you just admitted guilt to a criminal offense that will stay on your criminal history and driving record forever.
The Top Ten Awesome Reasons to Plead NOT Guilty.
- A smart student pleads not guilty.
- Pleading "not guilty" doesn't mean you deny you did anything; it just means you are not in a position to admit it without the advice of counsel.
- Usually by the time the police read your rights – it's too late.
- You will NOT be treated worse (or jailed) for pleading not guilty.
- Pleading not guilty gives your lawyer a chance to make sure the government has a solid case.
- Your lawyer can make sure the cops didn't violate your rights.
- A lawyer can try to get the charge thrown out or reduced.
- You keep your right to be presumed innocent.
A criminal conviction can ruin your life. Really – it can. We have worked with students who pled guilty – without a lawyer – and have seen how it affected their chances at getting jobs, promotions, driving school buses, admission to medical school, nursing school, stock brokers licenses, etc. We wish we were making this up… A criminal conviction will affect driver's license, grants, admission to schools, and scholarships. Worse, it also determines the jobs you can obtain when you get out of school. Do you want to be a school teacher or a school bus driver? An MIP conviction can RUIN that dream. An MIP conviction is put on your permanent automobile driving record, it will affect your insurance rates and potentially place you in a high risk pool or make you uninsurable (if you doubt this, just ask your parents).
Concerned that teenagers were drinking to excess and not seeking medical help when needed, the Michigan Legislature amended the MIP Statute in 2012 to provide amnesty for underage drinkers and their companions. The goal of the Amnesty section is to encourage underage drinkers to call for help when one of their friends drinks too much, overdoses, or starts having medical trouble. To qualify for the Minor in Possession immunity or Amnesty from prosecution, the minor (less than age 21) must voluntarily present themselves to a hospital, med-center or health facility or contact a police officer or ambulance for the purpose of obtaining legitimate medical treatment.
The MIP amnesty also applies to minors who may have been drinking alcohol and call the ambulance or police officer for help or drive/accompany the minor who is in medical trouble to a health facility for treatment.
The statute requires that the hospital or police officer notify the parents or guardian of the minor and the nature of the treatment.
The requirements for such amnesty is that the minor be under age 21, must have consumed alcohol, and the minor voluntarily presents themselves to a hospital for legitimate medical treatment or voluntarily contacts a police officer or ambulance (i.e. calls 911).
We have had only a couple of Amnesty situations. We are not seeing very many of these cases because prosecutors are choosing to not write criminal charges. For example, in one case a drinking buddy called police because their friend (also a minor under age 21) had become highly intoxicated, started acting strangely, and took off into a cold night without a jacket or phone. When the other minors could not find the person, they called police for help. The intoxicated minor was charged with MIP, but the friends who had been drinking with him and summoned police were not.
The State of Michigan has some of the toughest Zero Tolerance and MIP underage drinking laws in the country. You have your entire life ahead of you. Spend the time and money to get experienced legal advice. Look at it as an investment in your future. Don't let one mistake ruin your life.
– – You may want to visit: MIP Offenses and First Offender Program explained.
– – – You may also want to visit: : College Students Rights and Legal Resource Page. This is a page written by a former college student for current college students.
Attorney Bruce Alan Block is a Grand Rapids, West Michigan MIP Lawyer experienced with defending MIP, Zero Tolerance, drunk driving, possession and use of marijuana, and more. He has worked with college students from Calvin College, Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan, Aquinas College, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State, and many more. He defends your rights in court on charges such as Minor in Possession, Zero Tolerance, Indecent Exposure, flashing, urinating in public, and much more. Don't let a youthful mistake end a promising career.
Bruce Alan Block, PLC
Attorney and Counselor at Law
1155 East Paris Ave SE, Suite 300
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546
Phone: (616) 676-8770
Serving Clients throughout Western Michigan, in Grand Rapids, Ada, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Cascade, Wyoming, Byron Center, Wyoming, Caledonia, Cascade, Rockford, Holland, Grand Haven, Grandville, Kent, Barry, Ottawa, Muskegon and Ionia County. We represent college students from Calvin College, Aquinas, Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University, and Western Michigan University.