Minor in possession (MIP) and minor in consumption (MIC) of alcohol are very common offenses in Washington State. Many teenagers and young adults are accused of MIP or MIC every year, and the potential criminal and driver’s license consequences can be serious.
While the offense may seem straight forward at first glance, these cases can actually be quite complicated. Even if you are “caught red handed” with alcohol, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help you resolve your Washington MIP charge in a beneficial way.
There are many potential ways to resolve an MIP or MIC that can help you avoid a criminal conviction and a loss of your driver’s license. While MIP and MIC are crimes, many prosecutors (the people who bring the criminal charges against you) and courts are willing to allow these cases to be resolved without a plea of guilty.
Some possible ways to resolve your case include things like a “diversion” or “continuance with a dismissal” which will allow you to avoid a criminal conviction and keep your record “clean.” Unfortunately, not all courts allow such programs and not all prosecutors are willing to resolve cases this way.
This is when having a lawyer becomes particularly important, as it may take some fighting (i.e. litigation) to try and prevent a criminal record. Additionally, an experienced lawyer can advise you of some things you can do now to help increase the chances your case will be resolved without a conviction and license suspension.
Washington State MIP and MIC charges are gross misdemeanor criminal offenses punishable by up to a maximum of 364 days in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. Most people convicted of MIP or MIC do not receive the maximum penalties. In fact, most people convicted do not serve any jail time at all but may be required to pay fines, costs, and receive other burdensome conditions of probation. However, only an experienced attorney can accurately advise you of what you might be facing on your MIP and MIC case.
In addition to jail time and fines, MIP and MIC cases can cause a license suspension. A person who is under the age of 18 at the time of their arrest and who is convicted of MIP or MIC or who enters into a diversion on an MIP or MIC charge will lose their driver’s license. For these people, there is a 1 year loss of license for the first arrest that leads to a conviction or a diversion. The punishment goes up to two years for a second conviction or diversion.
It is important to understand that there are resolutions to MIP and MIC charges that the Department of Licensing will consider “convictions” and base license suspensions on, even though the court and prosecutor may not.
In regard to an MIC charge, even if you are not found to have alcohol in your possession, according to Washington’s MIC statute, you could have violated the law. The law makes it a crime to be under 21 years of age in a public place and exhibit the effects of having consumed liquor.
The term “exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor” is defined as having the odor of alcohol on your breath and (1) there is a nearby container of alcohol (full or empty) or (2) you appear to be under the influence of alcohol.
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