Underage Drinking or Minor in Possession FAQ

What exactly is a Minor in Possession (MIP) Charge?
You will receive a MIP charge if you are under the age of 21 and are caught with alcohol. This does not mean that you have to be drinking alcohol; you can still be charged with an MIP for only the possession of alcohol, like holding a beer at a party, or purchasing a six-pack at a store.

Is an MIP charge considered a misdemeanor or felony?
The first charge against a person will be a second-degree misdemeanor and the second or subsequent charge against a person will be a first-degree misdemeanor.

Can I go to jail for an MIP charge?
Yes, an MIP charge is considered a criminal offense and therefore jail time is an option. The length of jail time depends on the number of MIP charges you already have.

Can I get in trouble for holding a drink containing alcohol even if I am not drinking it?
Yes, it is against the law for a person under the age of 21 to handle alcohol in any way. The only exception to this rule is if a person 18 years of age or older works at a place where alcohol is served, then he or she will be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages.

What if I go to a party where there is alcohol but I do not drink, can I get in trouble?
It depends on the circumstances. If you were holding alcohol or pouring drinks for others and the police caught you handling alcohol, then yes you can be charged with an MIP charge. However, you should consult with a lawyer immediately if you were charged and did not touch any alcoholic beverage.

What are the penalties if this is my first MIP charge?
The penalties for a first MIP charge consist of a second-degree misdemeanor charge, up to a $500 fine, and up to 60 days in jail. In addition, your license will automatically be suspended for up to a year if you received an MIP charge.

What are the penalties if this is my second MIP charge?
The penalties for a second or subsequent MIP charge will be a first-degree misdemeanor charge on your record, up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. You will also receive a license suspension of up to two years.

Will the police notify my parents if I get an MIP charge?
If you are under the age of 18, then the police are required to notify your parents.

What if I am 18 and am caught holding, but not drinking alcohol, can I still get in trouble?
If you are at a place of employment that requires you to sever alcohol then NO, you cannot get in trouble, but you can get an MIP charge is you are over 18 and are in possession of alcohol that is not work-related, even if you are not drinking it.

Will my license be suspended even if I am not drinking and driving?
Yes, any person charged with an MIP violation will receive a mandatory license suspension. The length of the suspension will increase with each additional MIP charge you get.

Should I hire a lawyer to fight my case?
Yes, there are a multitude of defenses for this charge and an experienced attorney will know how to handle your case and find the best defense. If you do nothing about your charge then you will have to pay fines and could possibly do jail time. You will also have a suspended license, which can lead to other complications like the lack of transportation to work and school. Hiring a lawyer will probably save you money in the long run and help get your charges reduced.

What type of lawyer should I look for?
You should hire a criminal defense attorney because an MIP charge is a criminal offense. Make sure to find a lawyer who is experienced with MIP cases and has a good reputation at getting results. Do your research and set up a consultation with an attorney to see what he or she can do for you.

What happens if I am caught drinking and driving and am under 21 years of age?
Florida has a Zero Tolerance law in effect, which basically means that even if you are under the legal drinking limit, which is BAC level of .08 percent, you will still be penalized. You will automatically receive a license suspension for six months if your BAC level is over .02 percent, and if you are over the legal drinking limit of 0.08 percent you will face the penalties of a DUI, which could result in jail time and fines into the thousands of dollars.

Can I get my arrest sealed or expunged?
If the case ends in a dismissal, your attorney can discuss the potential for criminal record expungement/sealing, which can remove the criminal citation or arrest from the public record.