Steve Graham was rated one of Spokane's top five criminal lawyers by the magazine
Spokane - Couer d'Alene Living.
A conviction for minor in possession of alcohol can lead to unpleasant consequences for young adults. Minor in possession is a crime and can lead to license suspensions for young people before they have even had a driver's license. Because of the serious nature of criminal charges, it is best to consult with an attorney before making a decision on any case. Mr. Graham is available for free consultations on such cases. Please see his blog article Minor in Possession in Washington. Serving Spokane County, Okanogan County, Ferry County, Lincoln County, Whitman County, Grant County, Adams County and Stevens County, Mr. Graham will fight to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome in your court case.
Under Age Drinking Law in Washington
Washington laws on underage drinking are complicated. In Washington it is illegal for someone under 21 to possess, consume, or to "exhibit the effects of alcohol consumption" while in public. It is either a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor depending on how it is charged. It is a defense to the charge if the minor was drinking at home with the parent's blessing, or if the alcohol was consumed in medicine, or as part of a religious ceremony. Minor in possession of alcohol is often referred to as MIP or M.I.P., and is also sometimes written on the ticket by the police as MIPC or M.I.P.C. (Minor in Possession / Consumption).
M.I.P. and the Courts
If a child is under 18 and is a first time offender, he or she will be referred to the community diversion board rather than go to court. However, accepting diversion on a minor in possession charge will lead to a license suspension. For a minor over the age of 18, there is no license suspension for M.I.P. However, defendants over 18 will be sent to adult court. Typically, a first time offender is given simple probation and ordered to go to Alcohol Drug Information School (A.D.I.S.).
Legal Issues in Underage Drinking Cases
When these case are fought in court the case usually turns on whether the juvenile in question was truly "possessing" the alcohol. It is not sufficient for a prosecutor to prove that the juvenile was simply present at an underage drinking party. As with all criminal laws, simply being present or witnessing a crime cannot support a conviction. The definition of "possession" is kind of a gray area under the law. Under Washington law, possession can be "actual" or "constructive". "Actual" possession is when the minor holds the alcohol in his or her hand or in his or her backpack or purse. "Constructive" possession occurs when the minor does not have "actual" possession but the beer or wine is still in his or her "dominion or control". For example, a minor has alcohol in his or her dominion and control when it is sitting on the table in front of him or her, or he or she tolerates other minors possessing it in his or her car.
Other Possible Charges
Occasionally a M.I.P. charge will be accompanied by a more serious charge pertaining to possession of a fake ID or misrepresenting his or her age in a bar, or an allegation that the child purchased or attempted to purchase liquor, or that the minor will be unlawfully present in an "off-limits" area of a tavern. Individuals over the age of 21 can face charges such as furnishing liquor to a minor. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is not a felony in Washington state, but is taken very seriously by the court system. Charges of Minor Operating Motor Vehicle Over .02 can stem from having consumed alcohol and being behind the wheel.
If you would like to discuss your case with me (or the case of your son or daughter), please call. I do free consultations on criminal matters in eastern Washington. You will receive my honest opinion and I will listen to you and answer your questions. Call (509) 252-9167.
Areas where Mr. Graham practices: The Superior and District Courts of Spokane County, WA; Okanogan County; Ferry County; Republic WA; Colville WA; Stevens County; Lincoln County; Davenport WA; Cheney WA; Grant County; Moses Lake; Ephrata WA; Adams County; Ritzville WA; Pullman WA, Colfax WA, Whitman County, Newport, WA, and Pend Oreille County.