It is against the law for any person under the age of twenty one to drink or to hold any alcoholic beverage. If an underage person is in possession of any alcoholic beverage, whether they drink it or not, they can be charged with a Minor in Possession (MIP) violation. A MIP charge is considered a criminal offense and will be documented as such on a person’s criminal record. – Click Here for MIP FAQs
Florida is strict with their underage drinking laws and it is important for a person to understand the law and the penalties that come with the charges being brought up against them.
The Penalties of a Minor in Possession Charge
Whether or not a minor was drinking an alcoholic beverage or was just holding a beverage does not really matter in the terms of MIP charges because both actions are illegal and come with penalties.
The penalties for a MIP charge are:
First time offense
- Second degree misdemeanor
- Up to a $500 dollar fine
- Up to sixty days in prison
Second Time Offense
- First degree misdemeanor
- Up to a $1000 fine
- Up to a year in prison
Florida’s Zero Tolerance Law
Florida has a zero tolerance policy set in place for underage drinking and driving. If a minor is found having alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle, no matter if the alcohol amount in the individual was under the drinking limit, their license will automatically get suspended.
Defense for a Minor in Possession Charge
There are a multitude of defenses for a MIP charge, but each defense will differ depending on the circumstances of each person’s case. The key factors for a person to know in regards to a MIP charge are, the prosecution must be able to prove that the accused individual knew that there was alcohol present, as well as knew of the effects of alcohol and was in possession of the alcohol. If the prosecution cannot prove all three of these factors then they have a weak case against the accused individual.
There are cases where a minor can be oblivious of the fact that there is alcohol around them and therefore should not be charged with a MIP charge. For example if a friend picks up another friend and the friend being picked up has a cup containing alcohol, the driver may be completely unaware of the contents of the cup that their friend is holding. If an officer pulls them over and the cup is in the cup holder, the driver may be arrested for a possession of alcohol charge.
Another scenario is when a person goes to a party and is socializing around the room with friends when the police crash the party. The minor may be arrested for being in possession of alcohol if alcohol was present at the party near him or her. However, just because alcohol was present does not mean that a charged individual was holding a cup of alcohol or drinking any alcohol.
Circumstances do occur where minors are arrested for a possession charge while never actually being in possession of alcohol. It is also important to know that an individual 18 years of age or older is allowed to hold or serve alcoholic beverages at their place of employment if their place of employment requires them to do so.
It is also significant for people to know that a person who provides minors with alcohol is committing a crime that carries with it criminal charges and high penalties.
Hiring a Defense Attorney
Since a MIP charge is a criminal offense that will be noticeable on a person’s record a charged individual should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, whether they are guilty or not. A good criminal defense attorney will know how to block the prosecutions attacks and be able to provide a solid defense for the defendant. There are numerous defenses for a MIP charge and a person charged should discuss their case with their attorney in order to find the best defense suitable to them. Hiring an attorney will provide a person with a much higher chance of getting their charges reduced or dismissed.
Finebllom, Haenel and Higgins
We here at Finebloom, Haenel and Higgins have been providing high quality defenses for the state of Florida for over thirty years. We have a full team of professionals that are dedicated to helping people with criminal charges receive the best possible results for the charges brought up against them. We have a plethora of knowledge and expertise in criminal law and we know what to look for in weak prosecution cases. Every prosecution has a weakness and we will find your best defense in regards to your case. Call us anytime to set up a free consultation and speak with an attorney about your case at 1-888-781-9696.