In California, being under the legal drinking age doesn’t just prohibit you from consuming alcohol; it also prevents you from possessing it in any public place. Minors convicted of this crime face misdemeanor charges, but they cannot be sentenced to juvenile detention or jail if convicted. If you or your minor son or daughter has been accused of being illegally in possession of alcohol in San Diego, contact a defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Minor in Possession (MIP) of Alcohol Penalties
Minor in possession charges are filed under California Business and Professions Code section 25662 (BPC). Under this law, the penalties vary based on whether or not the juvenile has any previous convictions or this charge on their record. In California, a MIP first offense is punishable by a $250 fine or 24 to 32 hours of community service. For second and subsequent convictions, the penalty increases to a $500 fine or between 36 and 48 hours of community service.
While minor in possession charges are not punishable by jail time, they are still misdemeanor-level offenses and are best resolved with an experienced juvenile crimes lawyer. As a misdemeanor, a conviction will end up on a young adult’s criminal record, which could affect their ability to get into college, find financial aid, seek employment, or find quality housing. Most of those under 18 at the time of the offense will have their records automatically sealed after completing their sentence. However, those over 18 but not yet of legal drinking age when they were arrested can have their records expunged to make it easier for them to attend college, find a good job and seek out housing later on.
Aside from the potential complications of having a misdemeanor on their criminal record, most offenders found guilty of this charge will also face a one-year driver’s license suspension.
How to Fight Minor in Possession (MIP) Charges
There are many defenses against minor in possession charges in California. Some of the best defenses include:
- the juvenile wasn’t actually in possession of the alcohol
- the teen wasn’t in a public place when the police arrested them
- the police discovered the alcohol during an illegal search and seizure
- the suspect was delivering the alcohol to a parent or boss
Many of these defenses cannot be relied on if the minor tells the police information to the contrary. For this reason, teens, like adults, should never speak with the police without having a criminal defense attorney present.
When the charges cannot be successfully fought altogether because there is sufficient evidence to prove the juvenile’s guilt, other alternatives exist to reduce the consequences of a conviction. With the help of an experienced lawyer, it is common to have minor in possession charges dropped to a non-alcohol-related infraction. The great advantage to this is the minor doesn’t lose his driver’s license or have a criminal record. Sometimes a diversion program can also help the teen keep the charge from her record.
Related Criminal Charges
Often minor in possession charges are filed alongside other criminal offenses as well. Charges often faced by those accused of this crime include:
- Drunk in Public (Penal Code 647(f) (PC)): Punishable by up to 6 months in jail for a first offense
- Open container laws (Vehicle Code 23244 (VC)): An infraction punishable by $250 in fines
- Underage DUI (Vehicle Code 23136 (VC)): Drivers under 21 can receive a DUI for having as little as .01 % BAC
Addtionally, adults who helped enable the minors to obtain or use alcohol may also be charged with the following:
- Furnishing alcohol to a minor (Business and Professions code 25658 (BPC)): An infraction punishable by up to $1,000 in fines
- Allowing children to consume alcohol in a home (Business and Professions code 25658.2 (BPC)): Punishable by 1 year in jail
- Contributing to the delinquency of a minor (Penal Code 272 (PC)): Punishable by up to 1 year of jail time and a $2,500 fine
If you are a minor who has been charged with possession of alcohol, or the parent of a teen facing these charges, San Diego lawyer Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation.