Washington law, like the laws of the other forty-nine states, does not allow minors to drink or possess alcohol. The legal drinking age is 21, and anyone under that age is viewed as a “minor” for the purposes of prosecuting the offense of “minor in possession” of alcohol (MIP). The state may also charge a minor under the age of 18 with MIP for possession of illegal drugs. If a defendant in an MIP case was under the age of 18 when the alleged offense occurred, the case goes through the juvenile court system. Alcohol-related MIPs that allegedly occur when the defendant in at least 18, but younger than 21, go through the regular criminal court system. If you have been charged with alleged MIP, you should consult with an experienced Tacoma DUI lawyer to protect your rights.

Minor in Possession in Washington

Washington law defines the offense of MIP as the possession of alcoholby anyone who is at least 13 years old, up to 20 years old, or the possession of illegal drugs by anyone under the age of 18. An alleged MIP offense involving alcohol rarely results in an arrest or a trip to jail, particularly if the suspect is under 18. Police usually issue a ticket, and may call the suspect’s parent or guardian to come pick them up.

Penalties for Minor in Possession in Washington

If the defendant was under the age of 18, and therefore legally a “juvenile” at the time the alleged offense occurred, the case will go through the juvenile courts. In many cases, particularly those involving a defendant with no prior juvenile convictions, the defendant may be able to go through the diversion program. Rather than being adjudicated in court, the case would then go before a community diversion board. The diversion board would decide on a punishment, which could include a term of confinement, a fine, community service, or chemical dependency evaluation.

For defendants who were at least 18 years old when the alleged offense occurred, an MIP is treated as a gross misdemeanor offense in the regular criminal court system. A gross misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of 364 days in county jail and/or a $5,000 fine, although first offenses for MIP are unlikely to yield such a punishment.

License Revocation for Minor in Possession in Washington

The state may revoke the driver’s license of someone found guilty of MIP, even if the actual offense did not involve driving. Revocation for a first offense lasts until the longer of one year or the defendant’s 17th birthday. For a second offense, the revocation lasts for two years or until the defendant’s 18th birthday. Once an individual turns 21, they may request release of their license revocation. Defendants may apply for early reinstatement of their license, and they may request administrative review of a license revocation decision.

A Tacoma DUI lawyer with knowledge of Washington’s juvenile justice system can help you with a minor in possession charge. Vindicate Criminal Law Group has over twenty years’ experience representing defendants throughout Washington state, including Renton, Bellevue & Lakewood, in cases involving alcohol-related charges. We will work to challenge the state’s evidence, interview and evaluate witnesses, and negotiate plea agreements or dismissals with the goal of minimizing the case’s impact on your life. Contact us today for your confidential case evaluation online or at 888-212-4824.