Younger Ferris students may be breathing a sigh of relief as new Michigan legislation makes a first offense minor in possession (MIP) charge a civil infraction instead of a misdemeanor.
Senate bill 332-333 was signed in December of last year by Governor Rick Snyder. Before the bill passed, a first time MIP charge was a misdemeanor crime but was most often taken off of the offender’s record after a probation period.
Jacob Buse is a Ferris graduate and a Mecosta County district court probation officer. Buse handles many Ferris student MIP cases that are expunged after a probationary period.
In a written statement to the Torch, Buse said, “As I understand the changes to the MIP sections of the Liquor Control Code, an extra step is added to prevent young people gaining misdemeanor charges by making the first MIP charged a civil infraction, with subsequent MIPs going through mostly the same misdemeanor process. From my position as a probation officer, the only real changes for me will be a reduction in my caseload and the overall criminal caseload of the Court.”
Ferris director of public safety, Bruce Borkovich, does not feel the reduction in penalty will aid in deterring underage drinking.
“I felt the old law made people more accountable, while providing a first offender with a process to eliminate a criminal record,” Borkovich said. “I do not feel that the misdemeanor charge was excessive. It gave some level of accountability, and still provided a process for avoiding a criminal record. People choose a behavior that deviates from the requirements of a law because the perceived benefits of the behavior outweigh the consequences of the behavior. Reducing the charge to a civil infraction seems to lessen the consequences of the behavior.”
Ferris psychology junior Garrett Organek, does not believe a misdemeanor for a MIP is necessary.
“I definitely favor MIPs being a civil infraction over a misdemeanor,” Organek said. “I do not think that getting in trouble for underage drinking should have that big of an impact further on in someone’s life. People drink regardless if they are old enough to or not and I think most people know this. I guess it depends on the individual, but I personally know several people who have received MIPs as misdemeanors and it did not stop them from drinking.”
The bill does prevent an offender from receiving a misdemeanor on their first MIP offense but upon their second or third offense an offender could have to face more serious consequences.