What to Do for a First Offense MIP (Minor in Possession)

Are you unsure what to do for a First Offense MIP? Helpful attorneys from the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can offer guidance and advice. Call us!

Kimberly2 1 Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

January 26. 2023.

How Does Missouri Law Define Minor in Possession (MIP)?

Alcohol consumption among underage people is highly frowned upon in Missouri, and you can easily find yourself in trouble with the law if you are a minor (under 21 years) and are found in physical possession of alcohol or appear to be drunk.

In Missouri, you can receive MIP charges for various underage drinking acts, including:

  • Possession of alcohol

  • Purchasing or attempting to buy alcohol

  • Appearing visibly drunk

Violation of the minor in possession laws in Missouri can lead to jail time and a fine of up to $1,000. Attorneys at Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can help minimize or have the charge dismissed altogether if you receive a criminal charge for MIP violation as a first offender. With a proper defense strategy, getting probation or community service may be possible instead of imprisonment or fines.

What Is “Possession”?

Actual Physical Possession

In this case, the minor is found holding or physically possessing alcohol, either sealed or opened.

Internal Possession or Possession by Consumption

Suppose a police officer stops a minor, and a breathalyzer reveals a high BAC (blood alcohol content) in their system. The person is charged with a MIP even if they were not seen drinking alcohol.

Constructive Possession

When an underage person is found to be in a setting where they have access to an alcoholic beverage, this could indicate they had the intent to engage in underage drinking. A good example is when an underage person is caught driving a motor vehicle with alcoholic beverages in the trunk.

Types of MIP

Minor in Possession of Alcohol

As discussed above, a minor in possession (MIP) refers to underage persons with alcohol in their possession, whether physical, internal, or constructive. This criminal offense is recognized as a Missouri misdemeanor.

If minors violate the MIP laws, they may have to take one or multiple tests to check their blood or breath alcohol levels. The minor can also choose to have their own qualified individual conduct an additional chemical test with a police officer present.

Minor in Possession of Drugs

Minor in possession can also refer to the possession of drugs by a minor, although it is usually associated with alcohol possession.

A MIP offense for the possession of drugs comes with many repercussions. Even as a first offender, the minor may still have to enroll in rehabilitative and preventative services, take a substance abuse screening & assessment to evaluate their substance abuse problems and submit to several hours of community service.

    The Burden of Proof in MIP Cases

    MIP laws in Missouri are unique with regard to the concept of the burden of proof. If, for instance, underage individuals are found in possession of unopened alcoholic beverage containers, the assumption is that young adults have the intention to consume alcohol. If the minor claims that the container does not contain alcohol or that they did not intend to engage in underage drinking, they are required to prove that claim without a reasonable doubt.

     

    What Are the Consequences of MIP?

    Criminal Classification of a Minor in Possession

    Under Missouri Law, a minor in possession (MIP) is classified as a misdemeanor. The law was expanded in 2005 to include “possession by consumption,” which means that prosecutors now don’t have to prove that a minor possessed or purchased alcohol. As long as the minor has a detectable BAC or appears visibly intoxicated, that is a violation.

    Remember that a minor in possession offense does not require the offender to be over the State limit or to be operating a vehicle. The only thing that matters is that you:

    • Are under 21 years old.
    • Attempted to buy alcohol.
    • Had possession of alcohol.
    • Had detectable alcohol amounts in your saliva, blood, or breath.

    Penalty for MIP Conviction 

    MIP charges are taken very seriously in Missouri, and a conviction comes with severe punishments. Minors who are found guilty of MIP allegations face these penalties:

    • First offense – Class D misdemeanor. It carries a maximum fine of $300 and a driver’s license suspension for thirty days.
    • Second offense – Class A misdemeanor. It carries a maximum fine of $1,000, a driver’s license suspension for ninety days, and a jail sentence of up to one year.
    • Third offense – Class A misdemeanor. It carries a maximum fine of $2,000, driver’s license revocation for a year, and a jail sentence of up to one year.

    Can a MIP Charge Be Dismissed?

     

    One of the most frequently asked questions concerning MIP offenses is: Can I expunge an arrest from my past? A MIP charge can be dismissed, depending on the specifics of your case. A qualified criminal defense lawyer can use different legal strategies to help you contest the charges. For instance, a judge may dismiss a MIP charge and expunge your arrest if:

    • A law enforcement officer used an unlawful search and seizure when they found alcohol in your possession.
    • You were not technically in “possession” of any alcohol.
    • You were not under the legal drinking age when you were charged with MIP.

    In some cases, your legal team may try to get the court to dismiss a MIP charge by entering the following:

    • A deferred entry of judgment
    • A diversion program

    What are the Steps to Take Immediately After a First Offense MIP?

    The immediate steps after a first offense MIP (Minor in Possession) are vital for managing the situation and potentially influencing the outcome. If you’re a minor caught with an alcoholic drink, the first thing you need to do is stay calm and cooperate with law enforcement officers.

    Avoid admitting to having legally possessed alcohol, as this could impact your minor’s driver’s license. Do not provide any information beyond your identity unless you have legal representation present. Being charged with an MIP is a serious civil infraction that could lead to a misdemeanor punishable by law and affect your criminal record.

    Next, document everything you remember about the situation, including the circumstances leading to the offense and how law enforcement handled the situation. It’s essential to contact a lawyer experienced in dealing with MIP cases as soon as possible.

    They can provide guidance on the best course of action, whether that’s fighting the charge or negotiating for lesser penalties. Lastly, promptly inform your parents or guardians about the situation, as their support and understanding can be crucial during this stressful time.

     

    Does a Minor in Possession Conviction Remain on Your Record?

    A minor in possession conviction can stay on your record for life. If your driving privilege is revoked, you must take another test to have your driver’s license reinstated. You’ll also have to retest if your driving privilege was suspended and your license has expired.

    Can You Get a MIP Off Your Record?

    You can get a MIP off your record by filing for expungement. If your request for expungement in Missouri is successful, your MIP conviction will be removed from your public record. To get your conviction expunged, you should:

    • Not have any pending criminal charges.
    • Have fulfilled or completed all of the requirements of your minor in possession conviction.

     

    Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney for a MIP Charge

    If you or your underage child is facing a MIP charge, you need an experienced attorney to fight for you and see that the offense does not stick on your permanent record if it’s avoidable.

    At the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center, we understand that a MIP conviction can significantly impact your life and may prove to be a nuisance to your success.

    Our law firm is packed with highly skilled and experienced attorneys who will work around the clock to preserve your reputation. Get in touch with us today to get started!

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