Thursday, October 29, 2020

MSU students who receive MIPs share their stories and advice

September 7, 2017
Two men sit on the curb after being pulled over on their moped on Sep. 2, 2017, on Abbot road.
Two men sit on the curb after being pulled over on their moped on Sep. 2, 2017, on Abbot road. —
Photo by Jon Famurewa | The State News

As the school year rolls around, so do parties. Welcome Week at MSU is filled with social events and activities and in some cases, alcohol is consumed by minors. One of the most prevalent legal trouble MSU students get in: minor–in–possession, also known as an MIP.

Getting an MIP or as some students may say, getting “mipped" is a misdemeanor in the state of Michigan, resulting in an initial fine of $500, the MIP showing up on personal records and the possibility of receiving jail time. If the subject does not plead guilty, they can go through a diversion program and have their record wiped clean on their first offense. However, if the subject does plead guilty, they pay the $500 fine and the MIP will not be cleared off their record depending on their age. There are additional fees during the diversion program to take the alcohol and drug tests. 

The House of Representatives in Michigan voted in late 2016 to change an MIP offense from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction, meaning the subject will avoid jail time and receive a maximum of a $100 fine. However, this law does not take effect until January 1, 2018.

While MIPs may be on the road to becoming less consequential than they currently are, they still carry a lot of weight for MSU students. In addition to paying a fine that a lot of poor college students can’t afford and a possible night in jail, students can contact ASMSU who will provide a free lawyer to represent them in court. The lawyers are specifically provided for MSU students to help them in legal cases

Though MIPs could seem random at first glance, there’s a method to the police madness.

“Generally, there’s some type of behavior that precipitates the police contact for an MIP, " Lieutenant Steve Gonzalez of the East Lansing Police Department said. “The individual will be involved in an altercation, disturbance, walking down the street with an open container of alcohol, some type of behavior like that, that causes the contact with the police.”

A senior finance major, who declined to be named, received an MIP on campus in 2014. The MSU student was in the South Neighborhood on the tennis courts, peeing in a bush when they were arrested by law enforcement. 

“Don’t pee in public, for sure,” the senior said, echoing Lieutenant Gonzalez’s statement that it’s hard to get an MIP if you’re doing nothing wrong. “Don’t get belligerent. As long as you’re not acting like an idiot, you’re not going to get an MIP.”

However, it may seem like the police are out for blood. The tactics that Lieutenant Gonzalez described were not the procedures that cops allegedly used on a sophomore applied engineering major in the fall of 2016, who also asked not to be named. 

The sophomore said that they were outside Spartan Stadium waiting in line for a football game when they were arrested an MIP. They said that aside from looking the part and being with a clique of similarly dressed people, there was no reason to initiate police contact. 

“I was walking in. I was on my phone doing nothing wrong. Actually nothing wrong. I was texting and Snap-chatting people,” the sophomore said. “I think they just profiled me. They were like, 'OK, this (person's) an easy target.’ Just by the way I was dressed and everything and the people that I was with. It was total profiling.”

As far as how to avoid MIPs, MSUPD Captain Doug Monette gave some simple advice.

“When you go to college, it’s all about choices. And abstinence from alcohol and drugs is one of those choices,” Captain Monette said. “That’s really probably the best way to avoid getting an MIP is just not consuming alcohol if you’re not old enough.”

“Reality tells us that people under the age of 21, they’re gonna drink alcohol. They just need to do it in a safe and responsible manner, so that one, you don’t put yourself in any undue harm or any undue risk,” Lieutenant Gonzalez said. “At the same time the student has to understand that regardless of what their behavior is, they’re still breaking the law.”

The advice from students is more relatable, as they see it from the same viewpoint as all the other students on campus.

“Don’t blow,” the sophomore said, about taking a breathalyzer test. “Don’t do it because you won’t get in trouble if you don’t.”

“You just have to be smart about it,” the senior said. “If you’re going to drink underage, you can’t be stupid about it. People that get caught usually deserve it.”

The recent numbers for MIPs is astounding. The year 2014 saw 535 arrests and 2015 had 431. In the calendar year of 2016, the ELPD handed out 408 MIPs, averaging one per day. Granted, they were most likely given in chunks on weekends, averaging one per day is still high. August 24 to August 28, the four nights in the heart of welcome week, the ELPD gave out twenty-five MIPs, which is five per day.

MSUPD's MIP statistics will be released this upcoming week.

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