Avoid Minor in Possession Conviction
Many college students drink before they turn 21. Those who get caught in Michigan could face numerous criminal penalties, not to mention suffer a lasting criminal record.
Some parents want their children to be held accountable for their actions, but understand being charged as a minor in possession of alcohol (MIP) can haunt them well into adulthood, hampering their careers and hindering important opportunities. A first-time offender may be penalized with a punishable by a fine, order for community services and alcohol education. But it’s the criminal record that creates the real issue.
We are living in a time when there is a very competitive job market. Many employers will run a basic background check. If the student wishes to get an internship or a job in a high security field, or go into law enforcement of any kind, even a minor charge can be a major blow.
Our best OWI defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates handle minor in possession of alcohol cases all the time. We work closely with defendants and their parents to do everything possible to not only a void a conviction, but to keep the charge off that defendant’s record. That includes dismissal under MCLA 436.1703.
People v. Chowdhury
In most Michigan cases in which a young adult is arrested for underage drinking, or being a minor in possession of alcohol, it is at a bar or party where the officers claim they physically observed the defendant drinking alcohol. In a 2009 case from the Court of Appeals of Michigan (People v. Chowdhury), the police busted up a house party in Troy, Michigan. They observed many people who were likely under the age of 21 at the party, and also observed many of these suspects flee the house party on foot.
At this point, Troy city police stopped the suspects and asked if they had been drinking. Some of the suspects said they had been drinking, and others said they had nothing to drink that night. The police then took all suspects who denied drinking, and pulled them out of the group and told them they were going to have to take a preliminary breath test (PBT). The PBT is a handheld device that gives a breath alcohol score, and can be used in conjunction with other evidence to establish probable cause to place the suspect under arrest for operating while intoxicated (OWI). This is the normal use for a PBT, but the police in Troy attempted to use a PBT for probable cause to arrest a minor for being in possession of alcohol (MIP) pursuant to MCLA 436.1703.
In this case, defendant was arrested after he blew into the PBT, and it registered a score of 0.025 grams of ethanol per hundred milliliters of blood. This would be enough to arrest a defendant on an OWI, but this was not a drunk driving case. The student denied he gave consent for the breath test. At court, his criminal defense attorneys argued that pursuant to two cases from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, that the Troy ordinance that allowed for PBTs to be used in cases like these, the statute was unconstitutional. The district court judge agreed with defendant and suppressed the evidence. The government appealed, and the court of appeals ultimately held that the police cannot force someone to take the PBT, and they did not have any other probable cause for the arrest.
This is an example of one way we can challenge a charge based on constitutionality. These are avenues we will not hesitate to explore first.
However, where there is significant evidence against a defendant, delayed dismissal upon successful completion of probation (essentially a pretrial diversion) is an important option to consider.
Dismissal of Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP)
While getting the case dismissed after winning a suppression of evidence motion may be possible if the facts allow for such a result, the preferable route in many cases for the defendant’s experienced criminal defense attorney to argue for a dismissal based upon a pretrial diversion.
This is typically a deal in which they defendant will plead guilty to the arrest, but instead of being sentenced and having a conviction entered on his or her record, the defendant will be placed on pretrial probation. The defendant will be required to pay a fine, go to alcohol/ and or drugs counseling and rehabilitation if deemed necessary, not violate any court order or get rearrested upon a showing of probable cause, and complete all other terms of probation.
If defendant pays the fine and completes all other terms of probation, instead of having a criminal conviction for minor in possession of alcohol being entered on his or her record, the cases will be dismissed and a public record of his arrest and case history will also be sealed. This is a public record, meaning that if police run the defendant’s record though a certain electronic database, they may be able to see the conviction. This is done for the purpose of officer safety so they will have more information about the suspect with whom they are interacting. There may also be some applications on which a defendant with a sealed record will still have to disclose the arrest, so if the defendant has any questions about this, he or she should speak with his or her experienced criminal defense attorney about the actual situation since the facts of any two cases are never the same.
The Michigan Department of Community Health, Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction Services State Epidemiology Outcomes Workgroup generated an epidemiological profile that focused in part on underage drinking. The study found that in one year alone, underage alcohol use cost the state over $2 billion in tax payer money. Most of this money involved serious or fatal OWI-related crashes, but there is also money spent on abuse awareness and prevention.
While there is no question that underage age drinking can lead to a lot of problems, a single mistake by a college-age student should not lead to lifelong consequences. For that reason, the best thing a person arrested for MIP can do is to speak with an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Contact the experienced Michigan OWI defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates.