A very common charge among the young and restless is an MIP violation handed out like candy by local law enforcement. The MIP charge will get issued if the cops have reason to believe an underage party-goer has consumed or is in possession of alcohol. Possession can either be actual, i.e. in one's hand, or constructive, i.e. within one's reach and control. The common scenario is when law enforcement breaks up a party, generally triggered by unhappy neighbors who can hear and see the underage drinkers having too much fun nearby. The cops generally knock on the front door and request to enter the house. At this point, the music suddenly stops and bodies move fast and furious to conceal the fruits of the crime: open bottles of booze and other recreational herbs. The cops then approach each individual they believe is underage, requesting a name and an age. Most students comply and provide the requested information. The cop will either see the "suspect" holding alcohol or claim to detect the odor of alcoholic beverage in their breath. They then request the student to provide a breath sample in the Preliminary Breath unit, known as a PBT. The PBT is designed to detect alcohol in the breath, although it is not considered a reliable device that generates trial-worthy results. Instead, officers use the device to determine whether reasonable suspicion exists to issue the student a citation for Minor in Possession. The MIP ticket will list a court date and state that an appearance is mandatory. Parents often call me seeking advice with an acceptable resolution. Most students will qualify for diversion of the charge that gives the student a chance to avoid prosecution and gain a dismissal of the charge following completion of several terms of diversion. The length of diversion is generally one year and requires the student to complete an alcohol education class and abstain from alcohol and drugs. Diversion fees range from $300 t0 $650 depending on the court. The accused/student may certainly contest the charge if they believe they are innocent, but Judges will consider the officer's testimony and any breath test results obtained at the scene. The accused may challenge the reliability of the PBT device, but most Judges seem comfortable accepting the results as indicative of alcohol consumption. A numerical reading, i.e. .04%, will not be considered for its specific reading as the PBT device is not calibrated nor subject to a routine maintenance check like the intoxilyzer machine used on DUI investigations. However, the PBT can be used to determine whether alcohol has been consumed. Regardless, the accused incurs both legal fees and a potential conviction if they take their case to trial and lose. A conviction for MIP, unfortunately, will cause a 30-day suspension of their license on a first offense. Therefore, most minors choose to enter the diversion program to avoid a conviction and suspension of their license.
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