For many students, experimenting with alcohol is a rite of passage. It’s an integral part of socializing and even dealing with the stress of academic life. While having a few beers may seem harmless, underage drinking could lead to serious legal consequences. These could affect your scholarships, extra-curricular activities, and your entire future.
In Florida, students charged with alcohol possession can face expulsion and heavy fines. Schools like FAMU and FSU have zero tolerance for underage drinking. If caught, one of the most important things a student can do is to contact an experienced local defense attorney like Tallahassee Lawyers who are familiar with state and university regulations.
What is a MIP charge?
A minor in possession (MIP) charge is a criminal offense that occurs when an individual under the age of 21 is caught with alcohol.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act defines an alcoholic beverage as:
- beer, porter, ale stout, and other similar fermented beverages consisting of one-half of 1 percent or more of alcohol by volume, produced or brewed from malt
- wine of not less than one-half of 1 per centum of alcohol by volume, or
- distilled spirits, also known as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, or spirits of wine in any form.
Young adults are at risk of an MIP charge if they:
- Attempt to purchase alcohol
- Have an alcoholic beverage in their hands or their vehicle
- Have alcohol detected in their bloodstream
But there are exemptions to these rules. Some states allow underage drinking in minimal amounts for religious purposes or during gatherings with the supervision of a parent or legal guardian.
Underage drinking laws in Florida
Like most states, the legal drinking age in Florida is 21. Florida alcohol laws allow minors between 18-21 years old to work as bartenders so long as they are hired in a licensed establishment.
There are cases where alcohol tasting may be required in an academic setting. Underage students may participate as long as it is part of an official class at an accredited university.
In Florida, a first-offense MIP charge is recognized as a second-degree misdemeanor. It can result in a fine of $500, a driver’s license suspension of six months to one year, and up to 60 days in jail. Succeeding offenses are considered as first-degree misdemeanors and can result in a fine of $1,000, up to two years license suspension, and up to one year in prison.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid a criminal record after an MIP charge. Depending on the offense, juveniles (individuals under the age of 18 years) with a misdemeanor can be transferred to specific interventions instead of doing time in jail. These include youth diversion programs and therapies for substance use disorders. Florida offers first-time offenders the option to attend the Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MDP) instead of going through the lengthy criminal court system. This program is only applicable to offenders who instantly take responsibility for their actions and seek rehabilitation.
MIP charges can severely impact the rest of your life, especially if you’re a repeat offender. At the end of the day, the best way to avoid a possession charge is to avoid alcohol by all means until you reach the legal age. If you’re under 21 and struggling with an alcohol addiction, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Exploring rehabilitation options early on will save your health and future.