Minor in Possession

Kansas’ Minor In Possession of Alcohol or “Minor in Consumption” Laws

The Law:
Any minor under the age of 21 who is found to possess, consume, obtain, purchase or attempt to purchase alcoholic liquor or a cereal malt beverage can be charged with what is commonly known as “Minor in Possession (M.I.P.)”, a Class C misdemeanor. Sometimes this is also referred to as a “Minor in Consumption (M.I.C.) where a minor is found to have been drinking but does not have alcohol in his or her possession. They are both the same thing. M.I.P is punishable by a fine of up to $500, 40 hours of community service and the completion of an educational program dealing with the effects of alcohol.

Effect of M.I.P. on Driving Privileges:
Effective July 1, 2004, first time offenders will lose their current or future driving privileges for 30 days, while second time offenders are suspended drivers for 90 days. The third offense by a minor carries a one-year driving suspension. Also effective July 1, 2004, Kansas joined at least 13 other states in issuing new vertical drivers licenses to all persons under the age of 21 to make minors’ licenses more recognizable.

Also, an MIP/MIC conviction on a driving record will result in enhanced driver’s license restrictions in the event of a license suspension due to a Kansas DUI.

Providing Liquor to Minors:
Anyone who purchase or provides alcohol for minors faces up to $500 in fines and possible jail time. That includes minors who provide alcohol to other minors. Effective on July 1, 2004, Adults hosting minors under the age of 18 who consume alcoholic beverages will now be charged with a Class B person misdemeanor, which carries a minimum fine of $200 and a maximum fine of $1,000.00. A Class B misdemeanor also subjects the adults to 6 months in jail.

Taking diversion or getting convicted of an offense like Minor in Possession or Providing Liquor to Minors may make it difficult, or impossible, to obtain diversion for a DUI or other offense later in life as these crimes may be considered prior contacts with the law for alcohol related offenses.

Issues:
It has been against the law for persons under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol for many years. However, the issue has received a lot more attention lately due to increased pressure on the Kansas Legislature to stiffen the penalties for underage drinking, and adults who allow it. In Johnson County, Kansas, the police forces of several cities have joined forces to form an underage drinking task force. This multi-jurisdictional force, as well as individual city police forces, will routinely go on underage drinking “saturation patrols” where large numbers of officers do nothing but look for minors possessing or consuming alcohol.

In fact, undercover officers will be sent to high school sporting or social events just to see if they can overhear kids discussing the location of parties. The officers also roam the streets looking for houses which have a large number of cars parked outside of them. Officers will then attempt to look through the windows of the home to see if there are what appear to be minors consuming alcohol. If so, the officers will attempt to gain entry into the home and round up all occupants. Often, each person will be taken to another location in the home so that they can be questioned and asked to submit to a breath test. Police officers outside the “party house” will also set up roadblocks to stop cars attempting to leave the location or chase people that try to run away.

There is no doubt that teens and alcohol can be a dangerous and deadly combination. An overwhelming number of juvenile crimes and suicides involve underage drinking. However, there are many who have criticized this extraordinary emphasis on stopping underage drinking on behalf of the police. Police departments are spending an enormous amount of money and manpower on what was once seen as a fairly petty offense, to the exclusion of the enforcement of other crime. Some are worried about driving underage drinking underground and putting minors at more risk of physical harm than they would otherwise be. There are those parents who would rather have their child or a group of kids drinking at their home in a supervised and controlled environment as opposed to out in cars on the streets or in clandestine locations.

There have been some serious questions raised as to the tactics employed in making arrests for Minor in Possession. Many feel it is unseemly for police officers to be snooping around outside of houses and peering in the windows. The rounding up of everybody in a home, regardless of whether the individual has been drinking or not, and refusing to allow anyone to leave qualifies as a detention under the Fourth Amendment. Once detained, the individuals have the right to talk to an attorney before any questioning by officers. However, the suspected underage drinkers are often not read their Miranda rights before officers begin to question them about whether they have been drinking.

The blocking or stopping of cars attempting to leave the location of a party is also a detention which requires at least reasonable suspicion that individuals inside the car have been committing a crime. Under Kansas law, a traffic roadblock or checklane designed to stop cars for which there is no reasonable suspicion usually requires officers to follow specific procedures including prior notification of the existence of the checklane. Those procedures cannot be complied with in a spur of the moment underage drinking party raid.

Once the officer has made contact with a minor, he will begin to ask whether the person has been drinking, what he or she has been drinking, how much, and often where he or she obtained the alcohol. After obtaining this confession, or if the officer still believes the individual did, indeed, drink alcohol he will ask the person to submit to a Portable Breath Test, also known as a Preliminary Breath Test or “P.B.T.”. These machines are so unreliable that they are not admissible in court. However, there is legislation under way right now to make these tests admissible in M.I.P. cases.

IF YOU ADMIT TO DRINKING ALCOHOL AND/OR TEST POSITIVE ON A P.B.T., you will probably get a ticket for Minor in Possession or Minor in Consumption. You may also get such a ticket if you have the odor of alcohol on your breath or otherwise appear drunk. If you have alcohol on or near your person, or in your car, you will be cited. In fact, if you are just in the vicinity of alcohol you could get a ticket. “Guilt by association” is probably more prevalent in the area of M.I.P. enforcement than any other area of the law, excepting maybe possession of marijuana.

If you would like to avoid getting a ticket for Minor in Possession/Consumption the first line of defense is to not drink alcohol or hang around people who are drinking until you are 21. If you make the mistake of drinking underage you should be aware that there is no requirement that you waive your right to remain silent and answer the officer’s questions. You may refuse to talk and request that you be allowed to speak to an attorney or a parent before questioning. There is also no requirement that you submit to a P.B.T. You cannot currently be charged with any crime for refusing the test. Unless you are found with alcohol containers in your possession, it will be very hard to justify charging you, much less to convict you, without your confession or a breath test.

If you have admitted to drinking or tested positive on a PBT, there still may be legal challenges made to the charge. The prosecutor must prove that you violated the law in his or her particular jurisdiction. Just because you have alcohol in your system while you are in Leawood, Kansas does not mean that it can be proved that you consumed or possessed the alcohol in Leawood, Kansas. The prosecutor should be required to prove that you possessed or consumed in his city and not another city. Also, it is legal for minors over the age of 17 to consume alcohol at their homes if a parent is present. Thus, the prosecutor may not be able to prove that you were violating the law at the time that you possessed or consumed alcohol.

Again, the lawyers at our firm advise their clients strongly against drinking underage. We have seen a lot of young lives destroyed by alcohol. We have seen a lot of good kids get in very bad trouble because of their decision to drink.