A Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) [Fla. Stat § 562.111] charge is rather common in Florida. Possession of alcohol by a minor in St. Petersburg is still an enforceable charge, even if the minor doesn’t possess alcohol at the time of arrest. The arresting officer only needs to testify that at one time the minor either possessed or had knowledge of, alcohol in his or her presence. The odor of alcohol on a minor’s breath or displaying intoxicated behavior is enough to support an MIP charge for anyone younger than 21. One exception to the possession rule is licensed servers of alcohol in bars and restaurants, but there are specific criteria for this exception.

Punishments involve jail time or confinement in a juvenile center, community service, high fines and fees, probation, and alcohol treatment programs. A convicted minor could have his or her driver’s license suspended. A first-time MIP offense is generally charged as a misdemeanor. But it should not be taken lightly because it produces a criminal record, which can affect future education and employment opportunities.

Penalties for Possession of Alcohol by a Minor in St. Petersburg

These charges apply to minors purchasing, attempting to purchase or knowingly possessing alcoholic beverages. The following penalties for a conviction include:

MIP first offense – second-degree misdemeanor

  • A fine of no more than $500
  • A jail sentence as high as 60 days
  • Driver’s license suspension of six months to a year

MIP second or subsequent offense – second-degree misdemeanor

  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Up to a year in jail
  • Two-year driver’s license suspension

Fla. Stat. §§ 562.111, 775.082-83, 322.056

Minors Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI)

Anyone younger than 21 can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .02 percent or higher (the legal standard for adults is .08), reflecting Florida’s aggressive “zero tolerance for minors” when it comes to underage DUI. Possible penalties for a first conviction include:

  • A jail sentence of six to nine months;
  • A fine between $500 and $2,000;
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for six months to a year; and
  • Installation of an Intoxication Ignition Device on your vehicle.

Second and subsequent convictions or a BAC of .05 or higher bring even more severe underage DUI penalties: [Fla. Stat. § 322.2616]. It is also not unusual for a minor to be stopped and arrested for DUI, and any companions with him or her charged with MIP, even if there is no alcohol in the vehicle, and the officer reasonably believes all of them have been drinking.

Penalties for Selling Alcohol to or Purchasing Alcohol for Minors

Not only is it illegal for anyone (minor or adult) to purchase alcohol for minors, but also no one can knowingly furnish alcohol or permit a person under 21 to consume an alcoholic beverage [Fla. Stat §§ 562.11, 856.015, 125.69]. This includes parents of minors, such as at a private party for one of their children. Penalties upon conviction to a “supplier” can include either or both of:

  • A fine between $750 and $1,000
  • A jail sentence up to a year

It is illegal for anyone to use a borrowed, forged or fake driver’s license or ID card to purchase or obtain alcohol. It is a third-degree felony, and penalties include a fine of up to $5,000 or a jail or prison sentence of up to 5 years [Fla. Stat § 322.212].

There are a variety of defenses for MIP charges. Most of them surround the suspect’s lack of knowledge of the alcoholic nature of the beverage “possessed,” the prosecution’s inability to prove that the minor actually “controlled” the alcoholic beverage, illegal searches, or Miranda violations. The attorneys at Goldman Wetzel have thorough experience defending minors against both DUI and Minor in Possession charges in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Bradenton. Call us at 727-828-3900 or contact us online.

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