MIP: Minor in Possession

It is unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one years to possess, consume, or otherwise acquire any liquor. A violation of this law is a gross misdemeanor and faces a maximum punishment of 365 days of jail and/or a $5000 fine.

Navigating the Court

For any and all criminal charges, MIPs included, the agency that cites, arrests, or both determines what court the charges will be filed in, and therefore what court will handle the charge.

The court that a charge is filed into is an important aspect of defending the charge. While the charges are all the same across the board for the most part, the individual philosophies of the prosecuting attorneys and the judges and commissions almost always determine not only how the case will be prosecuted, but more importantly, the final outcome.

Some courts have special programs to increase revenue and decrease a first time offender conviction rates, while other courts allow a lengthy continuance of the case contingent upon good behavior that culminates in a dismissal. Knowing the philosophy of the judges on the bench, the prosecutors, and in some instances, the probation officers, is invaluable and should not be ignored in the selection of your defense attorney. Selection of an attorney for minor in possession (MIP) charges is just as important as it is for any criminal charge.

Acquisition, Consummation, or Possession of Alcohol by Minors (RCW 66.44.270)

The maximum punishment of 365 days of jail and/or a $5000 fine is rarely imposed because the statute accounts for priors or when the statute is silent on punishment.

Every person guilty of a MIP violation of this title when no penalty has been specifically provided:

  1. For a first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than two months, or both;
  2. For a second offense, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months; and
  3. For a third or subsequent offense, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days.

Consequently, for a crime that uses the term "minor" in the title, the possible consequences are anything but minor.

Exhibiting Effects of Alcohol

It is likewise unlawful for a person under the age of twenty-one years to be in a public place, or to be in a motor vehicle in a public place, while exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor. This is also a gross misdemeanor. Exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor means that a person has the odor of liquor on his or her breath and either:

  1. Is in possession of or close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor in it; or
  2. By speech, manner, appearance, behavior, lack of coordination, or otherwise, exhibits that he or she is under the influence of liquor.

The proof necessary to find a person guilty of this crime is set out by statute and law enforcement know this and are trained to make specific observations of the person and their surroundings.

Exceptions

However, the statute also provides some defenses for a minor, but they are affirmative and therefore they require proof that consumption was in the presence of a parent or guardian who provided the alcohol; or liquor was given for medicinal purposes by a parent, guardian, physician, or dentist; or the liquor was/is being used in connection with religious services and the amount consumed is the minimal amount necessary for the religious service.

MIP is a crime among a long list of crimes where and if you are a convicted (or diverted out of court) of that enumerated crime, you will have your license is suspended revoked even though the crime has nothing to do with driving. However, the consequences of the charge, conviction, or diversion affects your license.

In order to be charged with an MIP you must be under the age of 21 and be in actual possession of the alcohol, OR be in close proximity to it, and have the odor of alcohol in your breath and 1 other indicator that you consumed alcohol, such as blood shot eyes, slurred speech, or poor coordination. Regardless of whether you turn 21 before there is a conclusion of the case it does not change the fact that a conviction could happen for something while you we under age 21.

MIP License Suspension

The age of the minor at the time of a conviction has serious Driver's license consequences. For the purposes of license revocations, the term MIP refers to alcohol AND drug possession convictions for those persons who were under age 21 at the time of arrest. Age at the time of a MIP conviction or diversion agreement determines the length of the driver's license revocation. If you are between 13 and 17 and have been convicted of or signed a diversion for an alcohol MIP the Department Of Licensing (DoL) will be notified and they will take action.

If you are between 13 and 20 and are convicted of, or have signed a diversion agreement, for a MIP drug crime such as Possession of marijuana (POM), Less Than 40 Grams, or Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (PDP), (an example being a pipe) the DoL will also take action against your driver's license.

The MIP License revocation, unlike many revocations and suspensions, has no mandatory contested hearing procedure. You may request an internal review of the revocation, but that is done in your absence and is only done to make sure the records being used for the revocation are in fact correct in so far as correctly identifying you as the convicted/diverted person. There is no procedure to contest the evidence separate from the court procedure. 

Consequently, conviction of MIP or diversion for the MIP arrest, equates to an automatic revocation after the DoL learns of the conviction from the court. While the DoL is required to give notice, that is the only formality required. A minor convicted of MIP who is thirteen years of age or older, and under the age of eighteen, the court shall notify the DoL within 24 hours after entry of the judgment. The length of time for the revocation is harsh.

First Offense

1 year or until your 17th birthday, whichever is longer.

Second Offense

2 years or until your 18th birthday, whichever is longer.

Any license you hold, regardless of it being from Washington or another state will not be valid during the revocation period. The DoL will notify your home State or Province of the Washington conviction/diversion and they may also take action against your license. If you do not currently hold a valid Washington driver's license at the time of the conviction/diversion, the ability to apply for it will be delayed under the time lines discussed above.

Early Reinstatement

Early Reinstatement is possible but it is dependent on whether the conviction is drug or alcohol based.

First Offense MIP Early Reinstatement

Early reinstatement for a conviction for Drug or Alcohol MIP conviction requires a person to wait 90 days AFTER which of the following comes LAST: 16th birthday, the date of the diversion/conviction; the date your license was revoked. The above contingencies can play out several ways and requires fact specific analyses to determine when you may be reinstated. Therefore, contacting a knowledgeable lawyer who focuses on alcohol related crimes is necessary to determine if and when you may be eligible for early reinstatement.

Second Offense MIP Early Reinstatement

Whichever of these scenarios comes last in time: Your 17th birthday; 1 year after the date of the conviction/diversion; or the date your license was revoked. Once again, the complexities of early reinstatement requires the expertise of an attorney who has a practice dedicated and focused on alcohol related defense.

During the period of the license revocation for MIP, there is no ability to obtain a restricted license or nay kind of "hardship" driver's license. Time is the only method for which a MIP revocation can be remedied.

The young adults driving privilege can be suspended for a lengthy period of time on top of a criminal record which may stay with you for a long period of time and what seems like an insignificant crime has serious and long lasting consequences. Experienced and knowledgeable counsel is mandatory.

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