MSU police discuss ways to avoid Minor in Possession charges while out partying
Underage students caught boozing this fall could be handed more lenient penalties than law enforcement is used to issuing, but harsher penalties could come down depending on the circumstance.
Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law last December reclassifying a first Minor in Possession, or MIP, charge from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, but law enforcement officials still have the power to make arrests if a situation is deemed to be out of hand, East Lansing Police Lt. Steve Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said 408 MIPs were handed out by ELPD in 2016, a trend shifting downward since 2005 when Gonzalez said the city issued an all-time record 1,141 MIPs.
"When officers are making decisions whether or not to enforce the MIP law, one they're looking at the context of the behavior that caused them to make contact with the individual," Gonzalez said. "Were they involved in a fight? Were they involved in some kind of disturbance whether it be a large party or some type of disturbance in a public area? That usually generates the reason for the officers to have contact with the individuals that have been drinking under the age of 21."
Gonzalez also said other factors could play into the decision of issuing a citation, like how intoxicated the individual is, or if the person needs to be rushed to the hospital.
"All of those things weigh into the decision whether an officer will issue a citation, issue a warning or in many cases call the fire department to help and medically evaluated and taken to the hospital because they're too intoxicated for their own safety," Gonzalez said.
According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, anyone under the age of 21 can get an MIP for holding an alcoholic beverage.
It's also illegal for anyone under 21 to have alcohol in their possession at any time, even if they haven't consumed it. It's also illegal to possess or transport an unopened container of alcohol in either the driver or passenger area and the driver and any passengers can be charged during a stop.
MOHSP also states it's illegal to use a fake I.D. to obtain alcohol and allow anyone to operate a motor vehicle after they've been drinking.
Along with ELPD, MSU Police also issues MIPs. Since May, MSU police has issued over 30 MIP or drug possession charges.
"We send out our general patrol and we use our discretion, common sense to utilize and enforce the laws of our university and the state of Michigan," MSUPD Capt. Doug Monette said. "So do we come in contact with people who are MIP? Yeah."
Under state law, first time offenders issued an MIP can face fines of up to $100, mandatory substance abuse screenings and assessments, community service and if the offender is under 18, their parents will be notified.
Repeat offenders can be ordered to pay fines ranging from $200 to $500 and attend substance abuse screenings, community service, suspension of the offender's driver's license from 90-days to one year and up to 60 days in jail.
If a person under 21 is caught driving with alcohol in their system for the first time, a variety of penalties can be levied including: a 30-day restricted driver's license, $125 license reinstatement fee, four points on their driving records, additional fines of up to $250, community service and $500 Driver Responsibility fees for two years.
Additionally, any minor caught driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher could be charged as an adult for Operating While Intoxicated, which the MOHSP claims would permanently stay on the offender's driving record.
Anyone caught drunk driving the second time within a seven year span after they were charged with an MIP would have even heavier penalties issued, such as a 90-day suspension of their driver's license, a $125 license reinstatement charge, cumulative fines of up to $1,000, community service, "substantial" insurance rate increase and up to 93 days in jail.
Should a minor choose to drink they have to keep in mind the potential consequences, Gonzalez said.
"There's a lot of common sense that goes into the situation, but if you ask how to avoid getting an MIP the simple answer is don't drink under the age of 21," Gonzalez said. "I think we all know people are going to drink alcohol under the age of 21, but you have to be responsible and you have to be safe about it if that's a choice that you make.”
This story appears in The State News 2017 Welcome Week Edition. The issue can be found on MSU's campus at various dorms and buildings. To read other Welcome Week stories, click here.