Minor in possession of alcohol or MIP, whether it’s in Destin-Fort Walton Beach or anywhere in Florida, is going to have the same maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. What people also don’t realize is that this can be conditioned upon completion of a probationary sentence as well. For example, someone could be sentenced for six months of probation with the special condition of 10, 20, 30 or more days in jail as well as fines or court costs. The consequence of minor in possession is far more serious than it would appear.
Who is at Risk?
A lot of times what happens is that students from different universities and colleges throughout the country come to the beaches of South Walton County or South Okaloosa County in the San Destin area and they are approached by law enforcement officers who are arresting just about everybody if they appear to be under 21 years of age and are even so much as sitting next a closed cooler of beer. A lot of times, people will get a citation as opposed to an actual arrest for minor in possession, which causes further confusion. It causes people to believe that it is an infraction, a civil fine rather than a criminal offense.
Before the straight-to-jail policies in Okaloosa and Walton County were implemented as well as in Bay County for Panama City Beach and other places, people were routinely given citations for minor in possession and then in defining away their rights and paying a dollar amount under the belief that they were simply paying a fine like you would pay for a speeding ticket. These individuals later find out that they have trouble getting a job or getting a promotion or couldn’t work in a sensitive type of occupation simply because they had what is perceived as drug and alcohol criminal history.
When you say it like that, drug and alcohol criminal history instead of underage drinking, it has a more sinister overturn and is more likely to result in someone not finding employment. If they do find employment, then it can result in having employment at a much reduced earning capacity. What this means is a simple minor in possession charge can actually result in a lifetime earnings loss of over a quarter of a million dollars per person and in some cases even significantly higher. Minor in possession is a lot more serious than people would believe and the penalties can run all over the place.
Can I Get A Minor In Possession Expungement In Florida Or Will I Have A Record?
The answer to whether you can get a minor in possession expungement in Florida is a qualified maybe because it’s determined by how the case turns out. If, for example, someone has adjudication withheld, what some states call deferred adjudication, then they will have criminal history without a conviction. The problem is when it comes to a record expunction is that adjudication withheld is specifically barred for direct expunction. Instead, the individual will have to wait for 10 consecutive years hoping that each year during the 60-day legislative session, the law is not changed so that expunction of minor in possession charges are no longer available. What we’re seeing at this particular time in history from a historical perspective as it relates to Florida Criminal Law in 2018 is very simple. The days of the cold memo and a relaxation of laws regarding drugs and alcohol have come to a very quick end with the appointment of attorney general Jeff Sessions. Jeff Sessions engaged in a number of different things with the procedures and policies of the Department of Justice federally and those things have actually impacted minor in possession charges along with every other criminal statute in Florida. In a nutshell, aggressive prosecution and harsh punishments are back in fashion. If someone is accused of minor in possession then they need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Are There Any Minor In Possession Of Alcohol Diversion Programs In Florida?
Usually, a very bad plea bargain is the minor in possession of alcohol diversion programs. In many counties, people will have diversion programs dangled in front of them with the promise of not having to pay a legal fee or suffer any real consequence if they just sign up for a diversion program. Since this sounds too good to be true, but people often believe things that are too good to be true, people will rush to the state attorney’s office and fill out paperwork; then they’ll discover something like this: they will have to have six months of formal pre-trial diversion with reporting to a probation officer once a month.
Should they fail to report at any time or be late with the report that will constitute the violation of diversion. Another way in which the government will set people up with this method is they will require them to enter a plea of no contest as a condition to entering diversion. If the person violates the most minor thing in this diversion program then what happens is they go straight to sentencing. They can be found guilty, and regardless of the punishment imposed, will have the un-expungable criminal history that shows up as if they are someone with the serious substance abuse problem.
Employers don’t like it, graduate schools and professional schools don’t like it and thus, the handling of a minor in possession charge is critical. Diversion programs will also have a lot of time eating requirements that vary from county to county. For example, one county may require eight hours of a chemical awareness class and another county may require 20 hours. One county may require 50 hours of community service work like in a DUI charge and another county may require 25.
Are Diversion Programs the Same as a Dismissal?
Generally speaking, diversion programs are inferior to negotiated dismissal, but a person who is unrepresented does not have the best chance of getting a negotiated dismissal with fewer or no conditions. The reason for that is very simple. The worst prosecutor in all of Florida has at least had three years of law school and has been taught how to try a criminal case. Additionally, their office policy manual will give them specific guidance as to how they are to negotiate with unrepresented people.
Since an unrepresented person has virtually no chance of winning a jury trial then they are not going to give the best deal. Diversion is usually not a good deal but a determination on when it is or is not is something that should be made with an attorney’s advice and assistance. Otherwise, people will sign up for bad deal diversion programs that to someone with as much experience in a criminal justice system as I have when I look at it, I sit there and think to myself, “This pseudo diversion program was designed for people to fail it. It has so many hoops for them to jump through, many people will fail it.
Thus, the prosecutor who is actually a politician hoping for re-election can run around bragging about how tough they are on crimes when in reality they have destroyed a young person’s future and future earnings capacity.” People can lose over a quarter of a million dollars in future earnings if something like a minor in possession charge in 2018 is not handled correctly.
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.
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