Minor in Possession of Alcohol May Be Reduced to Civil Infraction
March 8, 2016
The Michigan Senate is considering whether to transform the crime of minor in possession of alcohol from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. The legislature is addressing an age-old problem: what to do about minors that drink alcohol?
The Proposed Legislation
Senate Bill 322 not only transforms a minor in possession of alcohol violation to a mere civil infraction, it would also limit the powers of law enforcement. The proposed law prohibits peace officers from requiring a minor to provide a breath sample [preliminary breath test] on-the-spot. Police could only request a minor to submit to a PBT.
For first-time offenders, a deferral remains available under the proposed statute.
By way of status, the Senate passed the bill last week, assigning it to the House criminal justice committee. No word on when Senator Rick Jones, the sponsor of the bill, plans to put his bill to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If passed as expected, the new MIP law will clarify some of the confusion surrounding this transgression: a first violation is a civil infraction while subsequent violations are misdemeanors with potential jail terms for a violation of probation of 60-days for a second conviction and 90-days for a third conviction.
Issues Under the Current Minor in Possession of Alcohol Law
Should teenagers and young 20s face jail or lose employment or access to college for drinking a beer?
In some courts around the state, including Waterford & Clarkston, judges have taken a hard-line on MIPs. Teens are jailed for violations of probation and for the contempt of court inferred through such violations. The MIP statute, however, does not provide for jail as a punishment.
Youthful offenders are denied access to employment and college admission. Reducing the infraction from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction eliminates the problem.
The core issue of rampant under-aged drinking in the college campus context has led to enforcement tactics used to obtain evidence and ultimately charge a crime. The tactics involve sweeps through college campuses looking for obvious offenders, followed by compulsory submission to a PBT. We have addressed the accuracy of such tests in this post.
On the other hand, critics of the bill say our legislature already tried managing teenage drinking as a civil infraction. From 1978 through 1995, MIPs were civil infractions. The accused did not take MIPs seriously when only facing a civil infraction.
We have been tracking this bill but there is nothing new to report. This summer, the bill remains lodged in committee while the sponsor attempts to gain support from district court judges.
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If you or a family member face concerns over a minor in possession of alcohol charge, contact our firm to schedule a free consultation.