The Law Of Minor In Possession (MIP)

The Law Of Minor In Possession (MIP)

A charge of MIP is much more than just possession. With summer in full swing, make sure you know the full extent of the DUI law regarding minors in possession.

Summer is here and that means high school graduation, celebrations, and late night or all night bonfires, and most likely alcohol. The warning is always to not drink and drive, but even if a young person consumes alcohol and does not drive there is still criminal liability—not only for themselves but, depending on the circumstances, criminal culpability of other people as well. Consider the overall statute: RCW 66.44.270.  It reads as follows but broken down subsection by subsection.

Section One: The criminalization of providing or permitting consumption

The first section criminalizes the giving of alcohol to a minor or permitting consumption under circumstances under their control and/or supervision.

Section Two: Possession

Section 2 is the law that we traditionally understand to be MIP. However, possession is not limited to the act of physical possession.

So, under 21 and you drink alcohol or possess it, you can face the criminal charge of MIP. Alternatively, if in a public place or a vehicle and you smell like alcohol, AND/OR appear to have drunk, or have an alcohol container full, half, empty, or otherwise appear to be "under the influence," it's a possible MIP. So the net widens in terms of having facts to prosecute.

Section Three: The exceptions

A special section, of the statute, subsection (3) tells us that other sections above don't always apply. It's a section that tells us what is not illegal despite the rules above.

So, in the privacy of the Parental home, when the PARENT of the minor permits it, no MIP, but if the child’s friend consumes, then the Parent faces charges under section 1, but only in so far as the non-child minor.

Section Four: Medical exceptions

A further exception:

Alcohol for medicinal purposes are few and far between these days, but fairly obvious exceptions here that reiterate the Parental right, as well as making sure doctors and dentist are not criminalized.

Section Five: Religious exceptions

Another exception is during religious services and ceremony but only as much as necessary. The challenge to the law here may well be whether the religion is recognized as such, and what is "necessary".

Section Six: Special permit

Subsection (6) permits MIP by way of special "permit".

So, here we have an exception to make sure the education of minors, who do not actually consume do not fall prey to enforcement of MIP law as well as protect their teachers, but as you can see, very regulated.

Section Seven: Safe harbors

The remaining sections speak to a form of safe harbor for the benefit of health and wellness of a minor who may have drunk too much illegally, but those who help are not prosecuted, and their initial act of MIP cannot be proven by evidence separate from the evidence of their medical need.

Section Eight: Ensures future licensing

Finally, the last section makes it clear that a commission of a MIP while under age 21 will not prohibit future licensing in the alcohol service/sale industry.

As evidenced by this blog, it should be obvious that the crime of MIP covers a wide variety of behaviors and even allows for the prosecution of non-minors, who play a role in permitting or "furnishing" alcohol. Every violation of the statute is a Gross Misdemeanor, and that means under 21 or over 21, the maximum sentence is 364 days jail and/or $5,000.00 fine. There is no minimum sentence, thus upon a conviction, the Judge can sentence up to the maximum however s/he thinks is appropriate given the facts of the case. A consequence, the charge of MiP, is among the most serious of misdemeanors and should never be defended without the assistance of a lawyer who focuses on alcohol related offenses.