Michigan Senate passes bill to change MIP charges

Charge to go from misdemeanor to civil infraction if passed by House

On March 3, the Michigan Senate passed a bill that would reduce the consequences of getting a minor in possession (MIP) charge if approved by the House.

Right now, an MIP charge is a misdemeanor and goes on the offender’s record for seven years. An offender might be able to get the charges dismissed upon successful probation completion.

Under the new Michigan alcohol bill, an MIP would be a civil infraction for the first offense. A second or third MIP would be a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor gives the offender a criminal record and employers or anyone who does a background check can see the charge.

You can get an MIP if you are under 21 and caught in possession of alcohol, purchasing alcohol, consuming alcohol or blow a .02 or higher on a preliminary breath test.

If minors were to get an MIP under the new bill, they would receive a civil infraction ticket. The fine would be up to $100. The options for getting a civil infraction ticket are admitting responsibility and paying the fine, denying responsibility and asking for an informal court hearing (meaning no attorney can be present) or denying responsibility and asking for a formal court hearing (can hire an attorney).

A Ferris music industry management sophomore, who wished to remain anonymous, got an MIP about a year ago when he was 19. He said he had to pay $325 and now has a misdemeanor on his record until he’s 26. He said he agrees with the pending changes to the MIP law.

“I think the change would be really good,” he said. “A lot of states have [the civil infraction rule]. I was in California in January and we asked our Uber driver what would happen if we got caught drinking underage and he said we would just get a ticket and it’d be done.”

The student said he’s slightly worried about how having a misdemeanor will impact his life.

“I’m worried about it to an extent,” he said. “I just applied for a job and had to write that I had a misdemeanor. As long as I’m honest with people I think it’s fine. I’m going into the music industry, though, and many people have drug or alcohol problems.”

In an MLive article, Senator Rick Jones, who introduced the bill, said MIPs are “clogging up the courts.” CBS Detroit reported that there were about 40,000 first-time MIP arrests from 2009 to 2013.

Ferris Department of Public Safety (DPS) assistant director Jim Cook said he doesn’t necessarily think MIPs are “clogging up the courts.” He said he doesn’t know why the legislation was introduced, but it could be because young adults with MIPs are finding it harder to get jobs with a criminal record.

Underage drinkers shouldn’t get too excited about the pending MIP changes, though. The bill was first introduced on May 14, 2015, and took nearly a year to make it through the Senate alone.