Drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal in Washington. However, many teens — and even some parents — are unaware that simply having alcohol in one’s possession when underage is considered illegal. In Washington, a minor in possession — MIP — charge can lead to serious consequences, including fines, license revocation and even time spent in a juvenile detention facility.
Elements of a MIP charge
There are several different elements that may come into play with an MIP charge. The most important of these elements is that the person charged must have been under the legal drinking age at the time of the incident. Other factors in an MIP charge include if a minor:
- Had alcohol in his or her possession
- Tried to purchase alcohol
- Drank alcohol
There are several potential defense strategies against MIP charges, including arguing that there was no alcohol in the container. This does create a burden of proof on the defendant with respect to that issue, though, but may be worthwhile in some cases. Additionally, minors might be able to avoid legal consequences by successfully demonstrating that they possessed or drank the alcohol as part of a religious ceremony such as Sabbath wine or sacramental wine.
Facing criminal consequences as a minor can have a lasting impact on the future. Unfortunately, many teens in Washington struggle to rebuild their lives after spending time in the juvenile justice system. Building a strong defense to minor in possession charges can be key to minimizing these consequences and therefore limiting their impact on the future. However, this can be a confusing road to navigate on one’s own, which is why working closely with a knowledgeable attorney is often well-advised.