A minor in possession of alcohol charge (MIP) is no slap on the wrist. This is a criminal charge that can not only result in multiple penalties if convicted but also remain on your record for life, depending on the circumstances.
WHAT IS MIP?
In Georgia, anyone under the age of 21 who is caught drinking, possessing, purchasing, or attempting to purchase alcohol can be charged with MIP. An officer may at their discretion arrest or ticket the minor. Either way, the charge is a misdemeanor. If ticketed, the minor is released on the citation rather than taken into custody.
An individual under 21 does not have to have taken and failed a Breathalyzer test to be charged with MIP. An officer can arrest or ticket an underage person based on observation alone. The odor of alcohol on a teen or young adult’s breath can qualify as sufficient observation.
In some cases, an innocent teen can be charged with MIP if caught just riding in a car with another underage person who possesses alcohol. This is known as constructive possession, where the individual under age 21 is presumed to have had the power and intent to control the substance even though they were not the one carrying it.
If underage and caught driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, a teen or young adult may also face MIP charges in addition to DUI.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?
An MIP conviction can result in a number of penalties. If it’s a first conviction, the teen or underage young adult can be fined up to $300, sentenced to as many as six months in jail, or both. Further convictions can result in fines of up to $1,000, 12 months in jail, or both. Judges can also order probation, required participation in alcohol treatment programs or community service, and other sanctions.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT ON MY RECORD?
As with any criminal charge, a MIP conviction has the potential to stay on an individual’s record forever. There are, however, various defense strategies an experienced criminal lawyer might recommend to help keep a one-time mistake from ruining a teen or young adult’s future.
There are programs and many other defense strategies to avoid trial, lower risk of conviction, and clear an individual’s record. Here are three:
- Pretrial diversion program – these individualized programs focus on education, treatment, counseling, and community service rather than the traditional route of prosecution. In a pretrial diversion program, an underage person charged with MIP enters into a contract with the local prosecutor’s office to participate in and complete the program. In some courts an attorney must make application on behalf of the charged individual. When deciding whether the program is an option, the prosecutor will look at prior offenses and circumstances around the arrest. In many circumstances, if the individual completes the program, their charges are dropped and the arrest record becomes eligible for expungement.
- Conditional discharge – in this scenario, a first-time MIP offender would, with the help of an experienced criminal lawyer, plead guilty. Instead of entering a conviction against the person, the court would outline certain conditions, such as probation or a rehabilitation program. When the offender meets the conditions, which sometimes can last three years, charges are generally dismissed pursuant to the conditional discharge statute and become eligible for sealing.
- Sealing records – cases dismissed through conditional discharge or a pretrial diversion program are eligible for record sealing under Georgia’s new “second chance” laws. Individuals convicted of misdemeanors, including MIP, can also apply for record sealing four years after completing their sentence. If approved, no private person and most businesses would not have access to the record, and a criminal background check would be clean. An individual can only apply twice, and the process requires a petition and often a hearing. It’s best to hire an experienced criminal lawyer to help with expungement procedures.
CALL THE EXPERIENCED MIP AND RECORD-SEALING ATTORNEYS AT GHANOUNI TEEN & YOUNG ADULT DEFENSE FIRM
If you or your child was convicted of MIP, the experienced attorneys at Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm can help. We are experienced at fighting and mitigating MIP charges. Contact us at 770-720-6336 for a complimentary strategy meeting.