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Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) in San Luis Obipo

San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly police often issue many citations monthly for minors in possession of alcohol. This frequently stems from the first and second year students (Under 21)  at Cal Poly who attend parties unaware that the police are patroling closely nearby waiting to find any minors possessing alcohol. When the police find a minor possessing alcohol they will usually cite them and not arrest them (unless they are also intoxicated in which case they will arrest them for both public intoxication and minor in possession).

Minor in Possession Charge as Either a Misdemeanor or an Infraction

The code section cited for most minor in possession charges is Business and Professions Code Section 25662 (BP 25662) which reads:

any person under 21 years of age who has any alcoholic beverage in his or her possession on any street or highway or in any public place or in any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or the person shall be required to perform not less than 24 hours or more than 32 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed or is not attending school. A second or subsequent violation shall be punishable as a misdemeanor and the person shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or required to perform not less than 36 hours or more than 48 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed or is not attending school, or a combination of fine and community service as the court deems just.

As this code section refers to this charge as a misdemeanor, in most cases this charge is charged as a misdemeanor. If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, you should understand that a misdemeanor is a crime, the conviction for which will trigger a criminal record with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other punishments. Less commonly, this charge will result in a citation for an infraction. An infraction is not a crime and does not create a criminal record, but is similar to a traffic violation that results primarily in a monetary penalty (a fine).

Sometimes a Misdemeanor MIP is Preferable- A strange twist

Common sense would suggest that it is better to be cited for a mere infraction for minor in possession rather than the more severe misdemeanor. However, in this case, in SLO, there are advantages to the misdemeanor charge. When someone is charged with a misdemeanor, the District Attorney (DA) handles their case. In San Luis Obispo, the DA may be willing to offer a diversion program in exchange for a dismissal of the charge. Diversion is a process whereby someone satisfies a requirement of the court (such as attending a sanctioned alcohol class) in exchange for a dismissal of the charges. Diversion is a great outcome in an MIP case! On the other hand when you are cited for an infraction, the case goes to the traffic court where a police officer ( the citing officer) will handle the prosecution of the case, and an officer does not have the authority to negotiate or offer diversion.  So, if you are charged with an infraction for being in posssession of alcohol as a minor, you will not receive an offer of diversion.

The Teeth:  An MIP Conviction Will Trigger a One Year Drivers License Suspension

Here is the kicker…Under California Vehicle Code Section 13202.5 your license wil be suspended for one year following a conviction for Minor in Possession. Even for a mere infraction conviction for BP 25662!! This code section reads:

For each conviction of a person for an offense specified in subdivision (d), committed while the person was under the age of 21 years, but 13 years of age or older, the court shall suspend the person’s driving privilege for one year.

Consequently, a strange twist on these cases is that a person cited for an infraction for MIP may end up convicted with a one year license suspension and one charged with the more severe misdemeanor may end up with a diversion offer. This is a bit of a strange twise but this is the reality.  This is proof that these things are more complicated than people realize.  Consult an Attorney!!!

Minor in possession charges are not to be taken lightly. Think of it, a one year license suspension is more severe than the standard license suspension for a DUI. Think I am kidding? Ask any San Luis Obispo DUI Attorney They will tell you that the typical First DUI License suspension is about half that long.

Hire an Attorney Skilled in Handling Minor in Possession charges in San Luis Obispo

If you are charged with being a minor in possession (ether as a misdemeanor or an infraction), call our office immediately and consult with one of our San Luis Obispo Criminal Attorneys. They can help you navigate this unfortunate situation in a way calculated to get you the best results. A good attorney can pursue diversion for you and hopefully keep your record CLEAN! Likewise, they may be able to help you avoided a severe one year drivers license suspension. Call Us (805) 621-7181

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