Understanding what a minor in possession charge is.
In Michigan, a minor in possession charge, MCL 436.1703, is a Misdemeanor criminal charge, and carries with it a $100 fine, court costs, possible probation, community service, alcohol education, substance abuse treatment, random drug screens, among other possible penalties a judge deems appropriate.
Subsequent offenses can carry higher fines, and can include jail.
Knowing whether you should just plead, or fight.
An MIP, although not a very serious charge when compared to other criminal offenses, is a criminal offense nonetheless. Some employers may deny work, schools may deny programs, and it can have other effects on your record if it remains. For example, because an MIP is a misdemeanor, it counts for purposes of expungements.
In Michigan, a person may only expunge one offense. This means that if you have a conviction for an MIP, and you later get into trouble with another offense, you will not be able to expunge your record.
Because there are possible consequences that are associated with MIP's, you should check with your employer, and school to see whether it will affect you. If it will adversely affect your future, it will likely be worth it in the end to not plead on the charge.
In many cases, it may actually be cheaper in the long run to fight the charge to get a favorable outcome than plead on the charge and have to expunge it later.
Court - the Arraignment
If your financial situation prevents you from being able to hire an attorney, you should be prepared to go to court by knowing what you are going to do before you go.
After receiving a citation for MIP, you will have to go to arraignment. In larger jurisdictions, you may find that you will be in court with many other young adults with the same charge, who are all at court for the same hearing. the first hearing you may go to is arraignment. Take care not to just plead guilty. You will not hurt yourself by pleading not guilty here.
After the Arraignment, you will likely go to a Pre-Trial. At the pre-trial in many counties you will be able to speak to the prosecutor.
When speaking to the prosecutor, tell them your story, and let them know that you have any issues under control. Provide substance abuse documentation if you do have an alcohol problem. Taking this kind of initiative will show the prosecutor you are serious about getting help.
You can ask the prosecutor if they would be willing to give you a delayed sentence. This is where you are put on probation, and upon successful completion, the prosecutor will drop the charges. This will help keep the MIP off your record.
If you have to take the matter to trial
Because an MIP is a criminal offense, you have a right to a trial. If you find that you have to go to trial, speak to an attorney. It is usually unwise to go to trial without assistance of counsel.
Additional resources provided by the author
To find more information on the topic, visit the Michigan Legislature and search MCL 436.1703.
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