The dangers of alcohol are drilled into our heads from childhood, especially the harmful effects it can have on the young mind and body. Transitioning from a child to a young adult can bring on a lot of emotional and physical changes. Experimenting and stepping outside of comfort zones is a regular part of development during this confusing time. We all remember being young and irresponsible, but possession of alcohol under the age of 21 is still illegal in the United States.
So what do you do when you get that dreaded phone call from your child in the wee hours of the morning begging you not to be angry?
Understanding Minor in Possession Laws
First, it’s important to understand what your child is being charged with and why. The government established a minor in possession (MIP) laws to educate minors about the risks of drinking before being of legal age. A MIP is defined as a defendant under the age of 21 found:
- In possession of alcohol.
- Attempting to purchase alcohol.
- With alcohol present in their system.
To learn more about the definition of MIP laws, check out this blog.
What Happens Next?
Don’t panic. You may be disappointed with your reckless teen, but everyone makes mistakes, and you’re not alone. At this point, the most important thing is to find competent legal representation and focus on reaching the best possible outcome for your child and their future.
There is no possible jail-time for a first offense, but receiving a MIP should still be taken seriously. Depending on where you live, there is a chance that your child’s license will be suspended for up to 60 days in addition to fines and court costs. If this is not their first offense, then jail time is a possibility.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can increase the odds of the charges being reduced or dropped entirely. You can learn how to prepare best to meet with an attorney here.
Figuring Out How to Plea
Usually, the police officer that caught your child will write them a citation. It may even remind you of a traffic ticket if you’ve ever received one. Look for the date on the citation that tells you when your child needs to be in court. Put it on your calendar, set a reminder on your phone or anything else you have to do, but do not miss it.
Their initial court date is their arraignment where the judge will read the charges. Make sure you and your child understand what they are and figure out what you’d like to plea. You can either plea:
- Not Guilty – The defendant disagrees that they have committed the offense or they’re agreeing that they committed the crime, but they believe they have a valid defense.
- Guilty – This is an admission of blame from the defendant.
- No Contest – This is technically not an admission of guilt but is similar to a guilty plea; the defendant is accepting the charges but chooses not to dispute or admit guilt without offering a defense.
Whatever the legal outcome, ensuring that you and your family have the proper support through this challenging time is vital. A reputable defense attorney is one of the support systems you can invest in that will help move your family forward toward a healthy and happier future. You will get a better outcome if you have a good relationship with your lawyer and trust they are acting in your best interests.