In the 1980s when Ronald Reagan was the president, we had a conservative revolution to raise the drinking age. Each state, including Florida: raise the drinking age or lose your federal highway funding. So, around 1985, Chapter 561.111 Minor in Possession of Alcohol was created and the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21 years of age. Note that the law does not prohibit consuming alcohol, mere possession is illegal. Worse, the law is rigged so that a person sitting next to a cooler of beer can be charged with MIP under the doctrine of “constructive possession”. The charge comes in two different forms as a misdemeanor offense with maximum punishments of 60 days in jail to 1 year. Often it also comes with a 2 years driver’s license suspension as well.
Can Minor In Possession Of Alcohol Charges Be Easily Beaten?
Maybe. Each case is different and has a different set of facts. But the government doesn’t care about protecting the rights of young adults, and defective stops, searches, seizures and arrests will happen all spring. The politicians aren’t concerned with legal enforcement of criminal laws – they care about lobbyists, campaign cash and re-election. As a result, spring breakers are victimized by weak minor in possession (MIP) arrests each and every year along the Gulf Coast. The law enforcement has been hyper-aggressive and the politicians increasingly support policies known as “Straight to Jail”.
This year, Walton and Okaloosa County will send police to the beaches with binoculars and 4-wheelers looking for people who appear to be under 21. They will swoop in, begin harassing young people, and even if the person isn’t touching an alcoholic beverage of any kind but may be sitting next to a cooler, he or she will be arrested and taken to jail. Then the “just sign here” scam will start.
How Does it Work?
Here’s how the scam works. When they run out of human power to arrest everybody, law enforcement will then start issuing notices to appear. They make it look like it’s just a ticket, “kindly” show people where to sign away their rights while telling them “adjudication will be withheld and you won’t have a criminal conviction”, and many young adults will be misled into having a criminal record. True, they will not have a criminal conviction, but the charge will show up on background searches as a “substance abuse charge”. Employers don’t want employees with criminal history and especially for “substance abuse crimes”.
Let me give you an example: Let’s say they run out of jail space in Okaloosa County so if someone is charged with minor in possession, they may be given a criminal summons instead of being arrested and going to jail. The summons says will list a day and time for the court appearance and on the back of, there is verbiage where you can waive their rights, pay a few hundred dollars and then you don’t have to go to court. A lot of these young people are students who may also have jobs. They don’t have time to come back for several court dates – the one on the Notice to Appear is only one of many. They frequently don’t want to tell their parents, and many will quietly pay off what looks like a something like a traffic ticket. Since they don’t know what they don’t know, they don’t realize the seriousness of the legal error they are making.
How Can This Affect You?
Later on when this person applies for graduate school, he or she will come to find out their application was denied because they have substance abuse criminal history. Or they notice that everyone around him is getting jobs, but after several promising interviews, they have no offers. They’ve been ghosted by a prospective employer and they don’t why. Well, that MIP charge that he thought was just a ticket, turns out was actually criminal law offense and now an employer is looking at that as substance abuse criminal history.
The third way that this can really blow up in someone’s face is if they have a 2-year driver’s license suspension that is ordered in Florida and their home state is one of the states that are part of the interstate compact. The interstate compact means that when their license was suspended in Florida, even if their home state does not send any kind of notice, they will still have a suspended license.
The next thing that happens is they’re pulled over for speeding and it’s discovered they have a suspended license and in Florida. They could then be taken to jail for an MIP offense that happened years ago. They may not have even known they had a criminal history!
Many scholarships have a requirement that someone refrain from criminal activity and the scholarship can be taken away if the person is arrested and convicted of even an MIP charge. It’s a charge that is deceptively minor in appearance compared to most other charges but the consequences can be great.
However, all is not lost. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can absolutely beat most minor in possession charges and the most common resolution that is favorable to someone charged with MIP is they negotiate a dismissal.
Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is a slightly edited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.
For more information on Minor In Possession Of Alcohol Charges, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 850-423-0035 today.