Michigan Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges and Penalties

A minor in Michigan may not purchase, consume, or possess alcoholic liquor—or attempt to do so--with few exceptions

A minor in Michigan may not purchase, consume, or possess alcoholic liquor—or attempt to do so--with few exceptions (see below). (Mich. Comp. Laws Section 436.1703.)

Exceptions to the 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 Section 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 Section 436.1703 (9).)
  • Religious participation. Minors may consume sacramental wine in connection with a religious service or ceremony. (Mich. Comp. Laws Section 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 Section 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 Section 436.1703 (13).)

Penalties

A conviction for violating Michigan’s minor in possession law is a misdemeanor. (Mich. Comp. Laws Section 436.1703 (1).) For a first conviction, the sentencing judge may choose any or all of the following:

  • a fine not to exceed $100, as decided by the sentencing judge
  • an order to participate in a substance abuse prevention program
  • an order to perform community service, and
  • an order to undergo substance abuse screening/assessment at the defendant’s own expense. (Mich. Comp. Laws Section 436.1703 (1)(a).)

For subsequent convictions, defendants may be subject to harsher fines. Judges may also impose jail sentences if the minor violated probation or other court orders as part of the subsequent conviction(s). (Mich. Comp. Laws Section 436.1703 (1)(b)&(c).)

Avoiding a Conviction

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 Section 436.1703 (3).)

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. A minor who refuses to submit to a breath test may have to pay a fine of up to $100, as determined by a judge. (Mich. Comp. Laws Section 436.1703 (6).)

However, the validity of this provision is in doubt. In 2009, a defendant challenged a similar procedure, contained in an ordinance of the city of Troy, as a violation of the Fourth Amendment's requirement for a warrant. An appellate court ruled that that the procedure was unconstitutional. Presumably, a similar challenge from a defendant would invalidate any results obtained pursuant to the state statute, too. (People v. Chowdhury, 285 Mich.App. 509 (2009).)

Parental Notification

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 Section 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 Section 436.1703 (2).)

Getting Legal Help

Because local procedures and attitude 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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