Minor In Possession of Alcohol (MIP) – Underage Drinking
Info, Penalties & How It Leads To A Permanent Criminal Record
As a local attorney practicing exclusively criminal defense, I know that each year we have thousands of vacationers that flock to the beautiful white sand beaches of Fort Walton, Destin and other beach towns in Okaloosa County, Walton County, and others on the Florida Panhandle.
For whatever reason, and especially over the last few years, there has been a movement by certain public officials and law enforcement officers to target underage drinking during the peak tourism months – March through the beginning of September.
And they have an additional focus on the SEC Universities’ spring break weeks, as well as the major holidays and events, such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Billy Bowlegs Festival, and Labor Day.
Officers patrol the area beaches looking for young people in possession of beer cans, bottles, or even plastic cups. They will watch and then approach quickly, hoping to catch as many people as possible for illegal possession of alcohol so they can give them all criminal citations, notices to appear in court, or even the make an occasional arrest.
There are two criminal citations they issue. One is Minor In Possession (MIP) and the other is Minor In Possession Under Age 21, meaning the individual is over 18.
If you or your children have endured this experience, you are not alone. Each year during spring break, literally hundreds of high school and college aged individuals are charged with the misdemeanor offense of Possession of Alcohol by a Person Under 21 years old, also known as Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP), in Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Okaloosa County and Walton County.
Minor in Possession of Alcohol is a Criminal Offense in Florida
The Florida Legislature has made it a crime for anyone under 21 years old to possess any form of alcoholic beverage. Make no mistake; this is not an infraction or ticket with a fine. If you sign the back of the criminal citation and send it with payment to the Court, the judge will treat it as a written plea of guilty (or No Contest) and the misdemeanor will be on your criminal record.
Since a Minor in Possession charge is a normally a second degree misdemeanor, with the penalty being up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine; the paper plea may look like a relatively good deal–just pay the money and sign the form and it is all over with. However, it would be a mistake to sign that paper without consulting with a local criminal defense attorney first to discuss other options that may lead to a much better result, even possibly a dismissal of the charges followed by a criminal record expungement.
If you decide to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you or a loved one charged with Minor in Possession, there are other advantages to consider as well:
- Under normal circumstances, you will not be required to return to Florida to appear in Court. Your attorney can file a Waiver of Appearance and attend these court dates on your behalf. Everything else can be handled through electronic mail, fax, and U.S. Mail.
- If the case ends in a dismissal, your attorney can discuss the potential for criminal record expungement, which can remove the criminal citation or arrest from the public record, so scholarships will no longer be in jeopardy.
Avoid A Criminal Conviction
If you feel that getting the best possible result for you, or your son or daughter, for a beach alcohol bust is important, please do not hesitate to call Attorney Shawn Lupella for a free and confidential, consultation if they were cited or arrested for underage drinking.
He will not pressure you in any way but offers his knowledge and experience to assist you in understanding your options. With offices in Destin (850) 424-5240 and Fort Walton Beach (850) 362-6655, and serving Okaloosa County, Walton County, and Santa Rosa County; and the many beach communities from Okaloosa Island to Sandestin, Miramar Beach, Grayton Beach, and Seaside.