Michigan Minor in Possession (MIP) Charges

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Sometimes children get into bad situations—especially in high school and college. If drugs or alcohol are involved, a night of joy and merriment can result in police charges. The last thing you want is a wild night out to ruin your future.

Michigan Minor in Possession (MIP) charges are very serious, and it’s right for you to be concerned about how this will impact your future. Luckily, you don’t have to face these charges yourself. At Weise Law, we’re here to help. 

Keep reading to learn what MIP charges mean for you right now and what can happen if you are convicted. Then, we’ll answer some of the top questions our clients fighting Michigan MIP charges ask us. But, if you’d like to discuss your case with an actual human, give us a call at (616) 931-7030. Or, if you’d rather send us an email, go here to contact us.

Everything You Need to Know About Michigan Minor in Possession Charges

You’re young and probably new to criminal charges. But, just because you’re young doesn’t mean the court or the law will let you slide. Instead, it’s important for you to put your best face forward, show yourself to be a respectable person, and work to get your charges reduced. Below are the steps you need to take to handle your MIP.

1. You got charged with a MIP.

In Michigan, the legal drinking age is 21. You will be charged with a MIP if you encounter a police officer while:

  • having alcohol in your possession.
  • trying to buy alcohol.
  • having had alcohol to drink.

The officer will give you a ticket and let you know when you need to appear in court. It’s extremely important that you don’t dismiss, discount, or forget about your court date.

 2. Find an experienced Michigan MIP attorney.

After receiving your ticket, you need to find the very best Michigan attorney to handle your Minor in Possession charges. A quick Google search will give you a list of attorneys in your area. However, you want to make sure you hire the one that has experience handling cases similar to yours.

Of course, we think you should hire us. At Weise Law, we regularly handle MIP cases. We’ve helped clients from a variety of situations, and we’re absolutely certain we can help you.  

3. Go to court.

When you get your ticket from the officer, you want to make sure to pay attention to the date on the ticket. That is your court date and, if you’re going to have any chance of getting this MIP off your record, you need to either be at court or have your lawyer there to represent you.

This is your arraignment. An arraignment is when the court explains your Michigan Minor in Possession charges to you. Then, you let the judge know whether you plead guilty or not guilty.

There is a third option. You could stand before the judge and decline to say anything. If you do that, the judge will enter a not guilty plea on your behalf. 

In order to have the best experience at court, it’s important for you to:

  • Be polite. You are standing in a room with a person who helps determine whether your charges will go away or stick around on your criminal record. It’s terribly important for you to put your best foot forward. If someone speaks to you, use your very best manners when you reply. “Please,” “thank you,” “ma’am,” and “sir”—use these words whenever you can when you’re in the courtroom.
  • Don’t be drunk or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It stands to reason that if you’re facing MIP charges, you don’t want to show up to court drunk or on drugs. By showing up drunk or high, it makes it much less likely that the judge would believe that your charges were erroneous. And, if you were planning on pleading guilty, your current state might inspire the judge to give you more severe punishments.
  • Follow the directions of the court. If anyone in the court tells you to do something, do it. If they tell you to sit, sit. Or, if they tell you to stand, stand up. 
  • Turn off your phone. Do you really have something more pressing than what’s going on right now? The last thing you want is for your phone to ring while you’re talking to the judge. Furthermore, looking at your phone while you’re in court—even if you’re just checking the time—tells the judge that you’re really not all that interested in what’s going on right now. The last thing you want to do is disrespect the judge or give the message that you don’t care about the outcome of this meeting.
  • Look good. Wear clothes that tell the judge that you’re a serious person who greatly respects the court. You won’t get any points for style, so keep short skirts and jeans with holes in them back at home in your closet. Instead, choose clothes that are modest and cover your body. Also, make sure your hair and face are clean.
  • Be ready for alcohol testing. You have been charged with a MIP, so the judge might want you to perform an alcohol test on the spot. You have to make sure you’re completely sober when you come to court. Failing your alcohol test while you’re in court for your MIP would be a total nightmare, so come to court sober.
  • If this is your first MIP charge, you might be eligible for the MIP diversion program. This is a huge benefit for you! The state of Michigan understands that when you’re young, you can make mistakes. Because you’re a first-time offender, you’re probably eligible for this special deal. 

Your lawyer will request the judge grant a pretrial or a dismissal under a deferred sentence agreement. Then, you will plead guilty. (It’s important that you plead guilty now without having the judge hear your case. If you go to court again to plead your case, this deal will be off the table.)

Because of your guilty plea, you will be placed on probation. You might even be sentenced to pay fines, do community service, or attend a substance abuse program. And honestly, those are the exact same possible punishments you might receive if you have a trial. But, the huge advantage here is that if you complete your sentence, your case will be dismissed at the end and won’t show up on your permanent record.

This is absolutely wonderful! For many kids charged with MIPs, it’s not the actual punishments from the conviction that cause them the most harm—it’s the fact that now they have charges that will show up any time someone does a background check. Later down the road, this can prevent you from living where you want to live, studying a subject that you’re passionate about, or getting your dream job. It’s best to do whatever you need to right now to ensure you don’t end up with a criminal history.  

  • If this is your second or third MIP charge, plead not guilty! One common mistake people make is to plead guilty to their Michigan MIP charges. After all, the officer saw you with alcohol, saw you try to buy alcohol, or noticed that you were drunk. There’s no way you could prove the officer wrong, so shouldn’t you just plead guilty? 

No! It is absolutely in your best interest to plead not guilty. Even if you actually did what you’re being accused of, by pleading not guilty, you’re able to move forward and discuss your case. This allows you or your lawyer to work with the prosecutor and negotiate lesser charges or reduced punishments.

And, with the burden of proof squarely on the prosecutor’s shoulders, he or she will probably want to make a deal. It’s up to the prosecutor to prove to the court beyond a reasonable doubt that you were, in fact, in possession of alcohol while you were underage. This can be very difficult to do.

Plus, if you’re entering a not guilty plea because you believe you are completely not guilty, it means you’ll get to tell your side of the story to the prosecutor and/or the judge. Of course, it would be completely up to the prosecutor about whether or not to drop any charges against you. However, this would be a wonderful resolution for you. Dropped charges mean a clear criminal record with no punishments or consequences.

So, what happens now?

You’ve just made it through your arraignment. What happens next will depend on whether you entered a plea of guilty or not guilty.

If you entered a guilty plea…

You’ve just pleaded guilty to your Michigan MIP charges at your arraignment. If this is your first offense and your lawyer has requested a dismissal of your Minor in Possession charges, the judge will let you know exactly what you have to do so your MIP charges can be removed from your permanent record.

However, if this is your second or third time you’ve faced MIP charges, the judge and prosecutor will quickly meet to determine what your punishment should be. The courts don’t like to push anything into the future if they have everything they need to resolve a case today. Then, the judge will let you know what punishments you’ll face. To learn more about potential punishments, scroll down to “What happens if I’m found guilty of Minor in Possession?”

If you entered a not guilty plea…

If you or your lawyer entered a not guilty plea, there are a couple of different things that could happen based on the courtroom you’re in. 

  1. The judge could take the not guilty plea, set a date for a pretrial conference, and set a date for your hearing.
  2. The judge could call up your lawyer and the prosecutor and have the pretrial conference immediately after the arraignment. Many courts favor this because they hope it will be a quick way to wrap up a case.

What is a pretrial conference? you might be wondering. At a pretrial conference, your lawyer will work with the prosecuting attorney to try to come to some sort of understanding. They’ll work together to orchestrate a plea bargain that’s fair for you. 

Rest assured, even though your lawyer is working with the prosecuting attorney, your lawyer is doing his or her best to craft the deal of the century for you. Your lawyer is always completely committed to you and your best interests. Based on the facts of your case, your lawyer should always deliver a plea that feels like a great deal for you. 

If your lawyer and the prosecuting attorney create a plea that you agree with, you enter your plea and face the agreed-upon punishments. 

But, what if you don’t agree with the plea bargain your lawyer presents to you? If you don’t agree with the terms of your plea, don’t accept them. Instead, tell the prosecutor that you don’t accept the terms and start shopping for a new lawyer. Your criminal record is too precious to risk, and you don’t need to have a lawyer that isn’t passionate about your well-being represent you.

Yet another option is that your lawyer and the prosecuting attorney are unable to reach an agreeable deal for both sides. If this is the case, the next step is going to court.

Your MIP trial

You have the right to decide whether you’d like a jury or non-jury trial. If you choose to have a jury trial, you’ll have a final pretrial meeting with the prosecuting attorney the day before you’re set to have your trial. The final pretrial meeting is one last opportunity to come together and see if you and the prosecutor can come to some sort of compromise before heading into a full jury trial. 

If an agreement can be reached at the final pretrial meeting, you will not go to trial the following day. The new plea will explain exactly what you will be guilty of, what your punishment will be, and how this will appear on your criminal record in the future.

However, if your lawyer and the prosecutor can’t come to an agreement in the final pretrial meeting, you can plan on moving forward with your jury case tomorrow. The court will be notified that you’re moving forward with the trial. Tomorrow, the jury will be selected and, most likely, you’ll have your trial. Remember, if you’re going to trial, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are a minor who was in possession of alcohol at the time of the incident.

What happens if I'm found guilty of Minor in Possession?

Being found guilty of any criminal charges is never a good thing. However, if this is the first time you’re found guilty, the punishment will be lighter than if this is your third time.

Your first MIP conviction

If this is your first time being found guilty of MIP, you could face:

  • up to a $100 fine,
  • a court-ordered substance abuse program,
  • random drug and alcohol screening,
  • hours of community service, and
  • a variety of other restrictions.

Jail time is possible if you violate or fail to complete any of the terms laid out by the judge. 

 Your second MIP conviction

If this is your second time being found guilty of MIP, you could face:

  • up to a $200 fine,
  • several court-ordered substance abuse programs,
  • random drug and alcohol screening,
  • hours of community service, and
  • a variety of other restrictions.

Up to 30 days of jail time is possible if you violate or fail to complete any of the terms laid out by the judge. Also, your driver’s license can be suspended for up to three months. You would then have to pay the $125 to have your license reinstated when the time comes.

Your third MIP conviction

If this is your third time being found guilty of MIP, you could face:

  • up to a $500 fine,
  • court-ordered rehab,
  • random drug and alcohol screening,
  • hours of community service, and
  • a variety of other restrictions.

Up to 60 days of jail time is possible if you violate or fail to complete any of the terms laid out by the judge. Also, your driver’s license can be suspended for up to three months. You would then have to pay the $125 to have your license reinstated when the time comes.

What if I was just holding a drink for a friend who’s over 21?

Unfortunately, whether or not you intended to drink doesn’t play a part in your MIP charges. Even if you were just holding a drink for a legal-aged friend, you’re still guilty of illegally possessing alcohol. It shouldn’t be in your hands at all if you’re under 21. 

But, does that mean you should receive the same punishment as another youth who was found intoxicated? No! This is why you need an experienced lawyer. With professional legal help, you should know just what to say and do to make sure your punishment fits your very minor crime.

What if I was picking up alcohol for someone over 21?

Let’s say you’re 18 and your parents want you to swing by the grocery store to pick up an order after you get off work. You pull up, tap the app, get the groceries and start heading home. On the way, your mom texts to ask where you’re at and your focus turns to your phone. You swerve in your lane—and a policeman notices.

He pulls you over and, because of your suspicious driving, wants to take a look in your car. You have nothing to hide, so you let him. You pop the trunk and there is a six-pack of your dad’s favorite beer. 

Everything is intact. It’s easy to see that you haven’t had one of the beers or even popped the top to take a sip of one. And yet, here you are an underage person in possession of alcohol. Now, you have to go to court to face your Minor in Possession charges.   

In this day and age where ordering and paying for groceries is incredibly easy, it can be hard to remember that an under-age child shouldn’t be alone with a bottle of alcohol no matter what. Even if the bottle is completely full and sealed, nestled in the trunk with the other groceries, an unexpected runin with an officer can result in MIP charges.

What does possession mean in MIP cases?

In Minor in Possession cases, the “possession” always strictly refers to possession of alcohol. To receive MIP charges means a person younger than 21 was found with alcohol, trying to purchase alcohol, or under the influence of alcohol.

However, when we speak about “possession,” it can also refer to drugs. Legally, though, Minor in Possession charges are about alcohol. Juvenile drug possession is when a person younger than 18 is found with illegal drugs.

Was your minor caught in possession of alcohol or drugs?

Your son or daughter comes home with criminal charges and a court date. What should you do? Well, you probably turned to the internet first and researched the worst case scenario. What’s the worst punishments my child could face for a Michigan MIP conviction? 

If this is your child’s first run-in with the law, you probably felt a sense of relief. A fine, community service, random drug testing, a substance abuse program—that’s not so bad. Then, you start to wonder, Would it even be worth it to hire a lawyer? Shouldn’t my child just plead guilty and accept the punishment?

Yes, you need a lawyer; and no, you shouldn’t just plead guilty. Here’s why. Your child’s potential MIP conviction is a much trickier situation than it first appears to be. Initially, you see how mild the punishments are—no big deal. But, what you’re missing is the work and negotiations that go into making sure the MIP charges leave your child’s criminal record once the punishments are completed. This will help to ensure one judgment error doesn’t negatively impact the rest of his or her life.

If your son or daughter was caught in possession of alcohol or drugs in Michigan, you need an attorney with vast MIP experience. At Weise Law, we’re here to help. If you’d like to discuss your case, give us a call at (616) 931-7030. Or, if you’d rather send us an email, go here to contact us.

We can defend you in all types of criminal charges including felony, misdemeanor, and juvenile cases throughout West Michigan.

Our Criminal Defense Team has Over 30 Years Combined Experience in the Criminal Justice System. We are available 24/7 by phone. Call us if you need immediate help.