Michigan Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges and Penalties

An underage minor in possession of alcohol can face criminal penalties for flouting the law.

By , Contributing Author

A minor in Michigan may not purchase, consume, or possess alcoholic liquor—or attempt to do so—with few exceptions. This law is often referred to as minor in possession or MIP and applies to those younger than 21. (Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 436.1109, 436.1703.)

Minor in Possession Under Michigan Law

A conviction for violating Michigan's minor in possession law results in either a state civil infraction or a misdemeanor. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (1).)

Penalties for Minor in Possession

For a first violation, the minor receives a state civil infraction. The judge may order the defendant to

  • pay a fine not to exceed $100
  • participate in a substance abuse prevention program
  • perform community service, and
  • undergo substance abuse screening and assessment at the defendant's own expense. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (1)(a).)

For subsequent violations, the minor faces a misdemeanor conviction and may be subject to harsher fines, along with the sanctions listed above. Judges may also impose up to a jail sentence if the minor violated probation or other court orders as part of the subsequent conviction(s). (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (1)(b), (c).)

Exceptions to the Minor in Possession Rule

Michigan recognizes four exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from possessing, consuming, or purchasing alcohol:

  • Employment. Minors may possess—but not consume—alcohol during regular working hours, in the course of employment by a licensed establishment. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (8).)
  • Accredited postsecondary education. Minors may consume alcohol in an academic building under the direct supervision of a faculty member if the purpose of the consumption is solely educational, and the consumption is a requirement of the course. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (9).)
  • Religious participation. Minors may consume sacramental wine in connection with a religious service or ceremony. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (11).)
  • Undercover operations. Minors may purchase or receive alcohol at the direction of various law enforcement agencies as part of undercover operations. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (12) (a), (b).) Such agencies may not, however, recruit minors for such operations at the scene of a minor's violation of the general rule against purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (13).)

Avoiding a Conviction; Sentencing Alternatives

At the judge's discretion, defendants without prior convictions may be eligible for probation following a guilty plea or (if the matter is handled in a juvenile court proceeding) an admission that the juvenile violated the MIP law. Upon successful completion of probation, the judge will dismiss the charges against the defendant. This means that the record of the case will not be available to the public, but it may be accessed by:

  • judges, prosecutors, and police, for purposes of determining whether the individual has taken advantage of this option, and
  • the department of corrections, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors, but only for employment purposes.

Defendants discharged in this manner may take advantage of this probation, discharge, and dismissal option only once. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (3).)

Parental Notification by Law Enforcement

When the defendant is younger than 18 years old, law enforcement is required to notify the defendant's parent(s), custodian, or guardian of the nature of the minor's offense within 48 hours of determining the minor's age. This notification is required only when the identity of the parent(s), custodian, or guardian is reasonably ascertainable. If, however, a minor younger than 17 is put in jail for violating Michigan's minor in possession law, the minor's parents must be notified immediately. These rules apply only if the minor is not emancipated according to Michigan law. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (6).)

Preliminary Breath Tests

According to the statute, a Michigan peace officer who reasonably believes that a minor has consumed alcohol may demand that the minor submit to a preliminary breath test. The results from this test can be used as evidence that the minor has violated Michigan's minor in possession law. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (6).)

Fraudulent Identification

Minors may not use fraudulent identification to obtain alcohol, nor may someone furnish fraudulent identification to minors. Both are guilty of a separate misdemeanor. Convictions are punishable by either or both of the following:

  • a sentence of up to 93 days in jail, as decided by the sentencing judge, and
  • a fine not to exceed $100. (Mich. Comp. Laws § 436.1703 (2).)

Getting Legal Help

Because local procedures and attitudes towards the Michigan minor in possession law vary, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who is familiar with how these cases are handled in your area. This will give you a better chance of achieving the most favorable outcome under the unique circumstances of your case.

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