Underage drinking and drug consumption is a noted problem in California and elsewhere. Most teens and young adults can easily obtain alcohol through friends or family. There are also plenty of adults who furnish alcohol to minors to make money. California's strict underage drinking laws attest to the public concern. When paired with drinking or drug use, new drivers pose a significant threat to the safety of California roads. It can also affect the development of teens and young adults. So, while it seems innocent enough, underage drinking and drug use has been criminalized because of the potential harm it can do. In most cases, it is just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and no one gets hurt, but it is still considered a criminal act. The criminal charge for underage drinking is a Minor in Possession. A Minor in Possession, or MIP, charge can result from a variety of circumstances. Someone under 21 can get an MIP by being caught drinking, buying or otherwise possessing alcohol. Sealed bottle possession or transportation is permissible under certain circumstances related to either a job or for a family member. A Minor in Possession is a misdemeanor charge. It will show up on your criminal record. You may have it dismissed after a period but it still needs to be disclosed in certain circumstances, like for governmental job applications. If convicted, you will face a fine, court-ordered community service or a combination of both, depending on whether you have had any prior MIP offenses. For a first MIP offense, the fine will be $250 and the community service will be between 24 and 32 hours. For a subsequent MIP offense, the fine will be up to $500 and the community service will be between 36 and 48 hours. The courts cannot order you perform community service if it will interfere with your school and/or work schedule. You will also lose your driver's license for one year, even if you were not driving at the time. If you do not yet have a driver's license, the DMV can suspend your ability to get a license for one year. With each additional offense after, your license will be suspended for an additional year. For a teen or young adult, that is a lot to put at risk. The court system will send information regarding your conviction or charge to the California DMV, who will then handle the suspension, and later reinstatement, of your driving privileges. The DMV will suspend your license regardless of what charge you end up with from the court system. You may be able to have your charges reduced in court but this does not exempt you from the DMV administrative process. If you were driving while drinking, you can be charged with a DUI. If your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, level is .01% or higher, you will automatically lose your license for one year, under California DMV's Administrative Per Se program, which handles the automatic license suspensions for DUI offenders. Drivers under the age of 18 cannot driver with any alcohol in their system and will lose their license if their BAC is anything over 0%. This is also termed the "zero tolerance" policy for underage drivers and is applicable in all 50 states. There is an important exception; for teens under 18 who can demonstrate they have a critical need to drive, because lack of transportation to school or the need to travel to a family member who is sick. There is an application process for this. California has a variety of laws in regard to underage drinking. Unfortunately, for any underage drinking charge, you will lose your driving privileges; this serves as a precautionary measure to ensure young driver's who are ruled to have a problem with alcohol aren't driving on the road. There are a lot of serious consequences to getting an MIP. To begin your adult life with a criminal record can pose barriers to job and education prospects. There are legal defenses for those unfairly accused and you can fight for rights as a teen or young adult.
Are your or a loved one facing charges of Minor in Possession? Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can best advise you on how to proceed with your case. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, every client gets the respect they deserve. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss strategic options for your case.