What is MIP?
MIP stands for minor in possession, a criminal charge brought against people under age 21 who are found consuming or possessing alcohol. An underage drinking charge is a misdemeanor in most states, though there is some variance.
Police officers are not legally required to test a minor’s blood alcohol level in order to file this charge — behavioral or visual evidence is sufficient for a court of law. For example, an MIP charge may be filed if your teen has alcohol on their breath, is seen holding alcohol, cannot pass a field sobriety test, or attempts to purchase alcohol underage — among other indicators.
What is DUI?
Another substance-related charge, DUI stands for driving under the influence. This usually refers to alcohol, but can also refer to driving while under the influence of another mind-altering substance, such as marijuana.
Driving with alcohol under 21 has consequences that extend far beyond fines and incarceration — your teen’s future job prospects can plummet with such charges. And in worst case scenarios, their safety is compromised. Each year, 1,825 people aged 18–24 are killed due to alcohol-related accidents, including drunk driving.
Underage Drinking Penalties
Though the minimum drinking age of 21 is a federal law, each state has its own set of penalties for underage drinking violations. In most cases, driver’s licenses are revoked for at least six months. Some states slap teens with expensive fines that reach into the thousands; some require community service and alcohol education. If addiction is found in an offending teen, the presiding judge may also require addiction treatment or teen alcohol rehab.
The second time (and any subsequent times) that a teen is caught with alcohol by law enforcement, consequences go beyond an underage drinking ticket. At this point, some states even punish teenagers and young adults with jail time.
Some states allow underage drinking records to be expunged after a certain amount of time. This opportunity often depends on the age of the offender and their number and nature of offenses.
Florida MIP Laws
Liquor laws in Florida dictate that a teen’s first MIP is a second-degree misdemeanor. Driver’s license privileges are revoked for six months to a year.
Following the initial MIP, any subsequent underage alcohol charges will be advanced to first-degree misdemeanors in Florida. Again, at this stage, judges hand out harsher penalties. Some first-time teen offenders in Florida may qualify for a misdemeanor intervention program, after which their charges can be dropped from the record.
Diversion programs — intended to prevent young people from making the same mistakes again — tend to last about a year. They usually involve activities like substance abuse counseling, regular drug testing, community service and drug rehab in Florida.
This is a golden opportunity for a convicted teen to start adulthood without a criminal record, even after getting an MIP. Florida misdemeanor intervention program acceptance is at the discretion of a State Attorney’s Office — thus, teens need to demonstrate that they are motivated to improve their behavior.
Fighting a Charge
If your teen has been charged with underage drinking, first find an attorney that specializes in these cases in your state and knows how to beat an MIP charge. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the government will appoint a public defender to your child’s case. (This is usually a less than desirable option, due to the limited resources of public defenders.)
Regardless of who represents your child’s case, do not speak with law enforcement unless your attorney is present. Instruct your child to do the same.
Talk to Your Child About Their MIP
Fighting an MIP charge is emotionally difficult, and it does not end in the courtroom. In addition to the penalties doled out by authorities, you as a parent need to address the situation as well.
It’s important to know how to talk to your kids about alcohol. Have a frank one-on-one talk with them. They engaged in illegal substance use, and were caught — this is a very big deal. You need to institute and enforce your own family rules about drug and alcohol use. Continue to address this issue until the substance abuse behavior has stopped permanently.
If your teen refuses to comply or stop drinking or using drugs, then require that they speak with a drug addiction specialist.
Does Your Teenager Need Substance Abuse Help?
You have a tough situation on your hands, and it calls for a closer look at your child’s substance use habits. Addiction stigma often prevents parents from reaching out for help their child really needs. But help is out there if you’re willing to be open about it.
Although many teenagers experiment with alcohol, this legal entanglement indicates that your family may be dealing with a bigger issue than the MIP itself. Teen addiction often hides until it grows too big to ignore — and by that point, it’ll likely require treatment.
At TeenRehabCenter.org, we are available for a free conversation about your child’s substance use habits. Our recovery experts — who have vast experience with underage drinking — are simply here to listen, understand and offer advice. You can help your child jump this hurdle — take the first step by getting in touch with us today.
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