Understanding the Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charge

As an attorney who has handled many minor in possession of alcohol cases throughout Michigan, I continuously argue cutting edge defenses in order to win MIP cases.  The reason why I handle so many MIP cases is because Michigan, and specifically, certain district courts, have taken the minor in possession of alcohol charge and treated it as though it was a major misdemeanor offense.  Ultimately, this has resulted in many young people receiving sentences ranging from heavy probationary sentences, to jail if the probation is violated.

An MIP charge in Michigan is a non-jailable offense.  What this means is that no matter what the circumstances are, the district court judge is not allowed to sentence the MIP defendant to jail.  Nevertheless, as seen below, this is a part of the law which certain judges fail to properly follow.

Most MIP defendants have no prior criminal history and generally are in high school or college.  Most parents, thinking that the MIP charge will not result in a major sentence, will advise their child to go in and plead guilty to the charge without discussing their case with an attorney who has extensive experience in defending minor in possession cases.  However, both the parents and the minor have never been involved in a criminal case and do not realize that if the charges arise out of courts, such as the 52-3 District Court and the 48th District Court, the young person charged with minor in possession of alcohol is facing a severe sentence.

Personally, I have seen Judge Nicholson impose an 18 month probationary sentence with no deferral for a first time MIP offender.  Additionally, one year probationary terms are the norm with all of the judges of the Rochester 52-3 District Court and the Bloomfield 48th District Court.  The probation for an MIP charge is intensive and will involve hefty fines, random drug and alcohol testing, large amounts of community service, jail supervised community service (WWAM), counseling, and court created alcohol prevention classes.

Unfortunately, although all minor in possession defendants are constitutionally entitled to an attorney, the reality is that most young people either do not speak to an attorney at all, or the attorney appointed to their case advises a plea.  This problem is magnified as most parents, not realizing the severity of the sentence that awaits, encourages their child to plead.

What happens next is that the defendant is placed on a horribly intensive probation which is much more akin to what I normally see in major misdemeanor cases, such as drunk driving second offense.  And as I witness over and over again, the probation is so severe that it is almost impossible for a young person in high school or college to comply.  What happens next in courts like the 48th District and 52-3rd District Courts is that the defendant is accused of contempt of court and is given either WWAM or jail. 

As you can see, simply going in and pleading guilty to an MIP charge is a terrible idea.  The results of that decision will haunt the young person as they realize what they have got themselves into.  The worst part about this is that most minor in possession of alcohol cases are defendable and can be won.  Yet, as I stated before, the young person charged never speaks to an attorney who understands the many defenses to a minor in possession of alcohol case, including an illegal preliminary breath test (PBT), unlawful entry into the apartment or home, or that there is a lack of evidence that the defendant was actually in possession of alcohol.

I have filed and won many motions in minor in possession of alcohol cases.  Because of this, I have outright won many of these cases prior to trial.  I have also tried many MIP cases at jury trials.  From this experience, I can attest that many of the MIP cases I see can be won.

As to the District Courts using contempt of court, rather than a probation violation, to send minor in possession defendants on probation to jail, I have fought this practice with all of my heart.  I, along with my good friend and fellow criminal defense attorney, Jim Williams, filed a class action lawsuit against the 48th District Court and the 52-3 District Court in order to stop this illegal practice.  The results of that suit are that these courts have severely cut back on this illegal practice.  However, it does still happen as most young people don’t have myself, Jim Williams, or the few attorneys who routinely challenge this practice, defending them.

Ultimately, if you or your child has been charged with a minor in possession of alcohol in the 48th District Court, the 52-3 District Court, or any other tough judge district court, calling an experienced MIP lawyer will be the best decision you ever make.  Going through this process alone is a terrible idea which you will regret as you get more and more disgusted on how your child is treated at the hands of a tough judge.


Jim Amberg is a partner at the lawfirm of Amberg & Amberg, PLLC.  Jim has tried and won misdemeanor, felony, and federal jury trials and routinely handles everything from Major Narcotics Conspiracy to Murder cases.  He argued and won the legally significant case of United States v Presley in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Jim also has sued courts to stop the practice of illegally incarcerating minors.  Jim is an active member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Michigan Association for Justice, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  He has been named a Superlawyer by Superlawyer Magazine, a Top Lawyer by DBusiness Magazine, AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, and has a rating of Superb by AVVO.com.

If you have any legal questions regarding your case, please feel free to contact Jim at (248) 681-6255 or email at jamberg@amberglaw.net.