It is unlawful for any individual under the age of 21 to have any alcoholic drinks on any road, highway, or publicly available places under California Business and Professions Code 25662. California’s Minor in Possession laws are put in place to help curb underage drinking. Minors may be indicted for an offense under MIP laws if they consume, purchase or even hold an unopened container.
Defining the elements of Minor in Possession laws
To prove a crime of Minor in Possession, prosecutors must show the presence of the following elements under BP 25662:
BP 25662 states that it is not illegal for a minor to possess alcohol if he/she is following reasonable instructions from an adult, for instance, delivering the beverage to the house or throwing it in a trashcan. The law also notes that lawful possession can include handling the alcohol as part of the minor’s job, such as serving alcohol as a waitress or a waiter. It can be legal if the person is following an order from a responsible adult, legal guardian, or in pursuance of employment.
Possession in legal terms can be constructive or actual. A charge of minor possession does not have to prove that the dependent had the drink in his or her hand at the time of the arrest. It can be applied ‘constructively,’ which means the defendant had or shared control over the beverage. A common example is if you drank from a bottle and then put it aside, legally, you would still be thought to be in possession of the beverage. In addition, BP 25662 does not require that a person consume any alcohol. The law simply requires that the individual is in control of the drink in any manner.
A “ public place” is one that is always open to the public or a highway or street. A public place can also include private establishments like restaurants and malls that are open to the public.
It’s worth noting that a peace officer is who has lawfully entered a public space can seize any alcoholic beverage from minors if:
1. They are at a social gathering that is open to the public and not supervised by a legal guardian or parent.
2. They are 10 or more minors consuming alcohol in public
What happens after an arrest for MIP?
Luckily, Minor in Possession doesn’t carry any jail time as a separate offense without other alcohol or drug-related offense. For a first, you will be subjected to 24 to 32 hours of community service and a fine of $250. Your license will also be suspended for one year by the DMV as part of administrative action under California Vehicle Code 13202.5. For a second or subsequent offense, a violation can result in up to 48 hours of community service and a criminal fine of up to $500.
Juvenile case proceedings
MIP laws typically apply to anyone under 21 years of age. However, if you are under 18 at the time of the arrest, your case will be processed and handled in the California Juvenile Court system. This means that instead of a jury trial, your juvenile case would be determined by way of a California juvenile adjudication hearing.
If the judge “sustains” the petition, which is equivalent to a guilty verdict, the charge will become part of your permanent criminal record.
The good news is that Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. has experience representing minors and knows the most effective way to help seal California juvenile records, similar to expunging California adult criminal records.
Apart from the immediate consequences, a conviction will appear on your criminal record. A criminal record can significantly affect your opportunity to start your career. Even if it is later dismissed, it must still be disclosed to government employers or licensing agencies. The conviction would still appear on your record as ‘dismissed,’ and anyone with access to the court or criminal records.
There are a variety of legal defenses that apply to this law and help get your charges dismissed. Depending on your case, your attorney can present the following defenses :
- The minor didn’t actually possess the alcohol (it wasn’t his/hers)
If the beverage belonged to someone else, then you’re not guilty of breaking the law. This law requires that you personally or jointly possess alcohol in order to be guilty of a Minor in Possession charge. Simply being in the presence of others consuming alcohol isn’t enough to sustain a conviction even under California’s aiding and abetting laws.
- The minor was acting under the instructions of an employer, parent, or guardian and only possessed it for that limited purpose
An exception to the possession element of Business and Professions Code 25662 if the minor is under 21 years and is delivering alcohol under the directions of:
- A parent or caregiver
- An employer pursuant to your job
This often serves as a complete defense to a California MIP charge that can effectively get your charges dismissed.
- The alcohol was discovered during an illegal search and seizure
California takes its citizen’s First Amendment rights pretty seriously. This is why even if you are technically guilty of a MIP charge, you may be absolved of all criminal liability if the police didn’t legally follow proper search and seizure protocol. All you would need to do is prove that the police
- Searched your property without a valid search warrant
- Made an unlawful arrest without probable cause
- The minor otherwise acted responsibly by calling 911 to report that he or another minor needed medical attention
We’re probably all familiar with the expression ‘snitches get stitches.’ But in this case, reporting to 911 the need for medical assistance as a result of underage drinking could help keep your record clean. California Business and Professions Code 25667 gives immunity from criminal prosecution from MIP charges if the defendant called the police to report a need for medical assistance during underage drinking. The self-reporting defense will not apply if the alleged offense also included reports of any drinking and driving or any other activities that made the consumption more dangerous.
How can we help?
If your child has been charged with a MIP, we can give you the best legal representation Los Angeles offers. Our team of highly experienced and effective lawyers at Criminal Defense Heroes, P.C. will stop at nothing to get you and your child a positive outcome. Chat with us online or call 323-529-3660 and get help immediately.