MIP – Minor Im-Prisonment?

December 7, 2011

Political Theory


As a University of Michigan student, it is not uncommon to hear about, or even face yourself, the consequences of being handed a Minor in Possession ticket. It seems that the Department of Public Safety officers, or simply DPS, give out these fateful misdemeanor tickets like it’s candy. Unfortunately for us, the state of Michigan has one of the harshest rules surrounding MIP distribution and punishment.

As college will always have, underage drinking is common, open,  and inevitable. With this notion, wouldn’t you think the law enforcement officers would try to maintain and confine drinking to personal property, as long as no one is harmed? Sadly, it seems that the police here stake outside parties, pre games, and fraternities just waiting to write these MIP’s to naive students who happened to pass them by under the influence . Despite if they were harming anyone or causing a nuisance, they will be charged with the serious misdemeanor crime of a Minor in Possession Charge whether or not they only had 1-2 drinks.

By handing out such a charge, it jeopardizes a student’s future solely because the student decided to be apart of a college tradition and pastime – drinking. I am in no shape or form supporting alcohol usage, however, I do believe that one should not be criticized so harshly when one decides to participate in alcohol related activities – it will always be prevalent on college campuses. With a MIP misdemeanor charge on your record, when you apply to graduate school or for a job position, you must report it. You technically will be classified as a criminal, just because you happened to get caught drinking underaged.

Though this is unfortunate, there is one thing first-time offenders can do to hopefully eliminate the MIP charge from the record: partaking in a diversion program. This program allows a student to take an alcohol education class, do community service, and pay a fine, which in turn, expunges the charge permanently from their record upon completion. This is a great program because it allows minors, who may have just been in a “at the wrong place at the wrong time” sort of situation, the opportunity to redeem themselves and to learn from their mistakes; through this the minor will perhaps learn to control their drinking better or even eliminate alcohol consumption all together. Quite often, judges and prosecutors allow minors charged with an MIP to participate in this program, however, not all judges agree with the program.

HOW ONE MINOR IN POSSESSION – MIP CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE

This video describes one particular judge, by the name of Judge Post, who disagrees with the diversion program available to first time offenders. He strongly believes that a misdemeanor MIP is comparable to assault or battery. Though this can be argued, I don’t believe being charged simply with underaged drinking can even compare with physically harming another person, unless the drinking incident was conducive to harming others, of course. Judge Post also argues that if the minor is “let off” without any consequences, the minor will believe he is invincible and may continue to drink without any respect for the law. Personally, I believe taking the diversion class and learning about the effects of alcohol is more rewarding and beneficial than teaching minors a lesson through harsh, cruel, and unusual punishment for such a minimal act.

Thankfully, there are various resources available to minors charged with MIP’s to take advantage of. Specifically at University of Michigan, this resource at student legal services provides legal guidance to pursue and fight the MIP charge. 

In all, I question whether it is better to teach underage drinkers a lesson by punishing them with a hefty misdemeanor charge on their first offense or to allow them to take the diversion program, which would expunge the charge from their record upon successful completion; in other words, what would you do if you were in Judge Post’s position? Also, I wonder if DPS officers at the University of Michigan, specifically, are overusing their powers to write MIP’s to students when they can spend that same amount of time and energy pursuing more important crimes, such as drug use/trafficking and violence. Lastly, do you believe an MIP charge should be viewed as a serious misdemeanor charge, or instead, a less serious civil infraction?

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6 Comments on “MIP – Minor Im-Prisonment?”

  1. Michael Zanger Says:

    “I do believe that one should not be criticized so harshly when one decides to participate in alcohol related activities” – You’re not being criticized, you’re being handed a ticket for an offense.

    I think your post answers the overall question of this post: If they weren’t taken so seriously by the DPS, you wouldn’t be concerned and writing a blog post about underage drinking.

    An adult, if caught by an officer, can be given a ticket for public drunkenness. Rarely does this happen unless the individual completely out of control. I think a majority of us have been to sporting events and witnessed adults drinking (unless you live in Utah). Everyone has a story about how they saw a cop arresting the drunk guy who [insert bizarre act here]. And on the other hand, if we went with our parents, guardians, etc., they might have had a drink or two. Never do the cops question adults going about their business.

    I think the point of MIPs and tickets for public drunkenness is to minimize foolish drinking and activities that follow (i.e. don’t go downtown searching for food, stumbling into people and making a blatant ass of yourself).

  2. samyoovpolsci Says:

    I think the strength of the punishment that the State of Michigan enforces against MIP’s is a direct correlation to their views on the gravity of underage drinking as a problem. If MIP’s were nothing more than a single fine, that you can pay whenever, there is simply no incentive for students to stop underage drinking. After all, MIPs are there as a deterrent to scare underaged students to not illegally drink. What better deterrence is there then to threaten them that their future can be more or less tainted by underaged drinking?
    Furthermore, as students are more likely to binge drink, it only seems safe and logical for the police to be in a lookout for such “naive students”. Of course, as a student i am naturally annoyed and angry at the tenacious nature of these DPS, but rationally and looking at this issue of under age drinking from a third person’s view, the law of MIP’s seem pretty fair to me…

  3. adamskt Says:

    I disagree with a few things that were stated in this post. First of all, DPS cannot give out MIPs. The Department of Public Safety is run by the University, and the sanctions they can give are “educational assignments or obligations” (http://police.umich.edu/?s=alcohol)They have the ability to recommend further external sanctions to state police officers, but cannot give out MIPs themselves.

    Also, this post seems to conclude that MIPs are very common in the state of Michigan. I’m not sure what the statistics are, but I think that if so many MIPs are given out, they would begin to lose their power. We all know a few people who have received an MIP, but I do not think that their opportunities in life are severely diminished. Those who receive MIPs will have to discuss these on future applications, but I do not believe that partaking in underage drinking while in college will prevent them from succeeding in later aspects of their lives. As long as they are able to show that they have learned from their mistakes and that they take full responsibility for their actions, they should be fine.

    Despite this, though, I do agree that MIPs are important. Without an enforcement mechanism, there would be no drinking age. I think that MIPs have a reasonable balance between seriousness of punishment and chances for those who receive them to recover.

  4. chkeeler Says:

    I have many friends who have been, like you said, at the wrong place at the wrong time. The University of Michigan, along with many college campuses across the nation, is a platform for underage drinking. Football games and house parties bring together many young people in celebration; alcohol consumption is inevitable. I understand that drinking under age 21 is illegal and I do not condone abusing alcohol, but I have witnessed DPS and Ann Arbor police “scope out” certain individuals who they think have been drinking. One such incident occurred last year when I was walking home to my dorm.
    Two DPS officers were camping-out inside Markley Hall, waiting for people who look like they had been drinking and handing them MIPs. I could not believe their actions. I viewed this as an infringement upon our rights as students. Kids do not have the option on where they get to live their first year on campus, and thus the dorms should be considered a “safe zone” or home. They are not driving anywhere- they get taxi rides from wherever the party was located, especially during the winter. The police should be more concerned about the safety of the campus, rather than ruining students’ semesters, and potentially career opportunities, by giving them MIP’s. I agree that some situations,such as when the student is being destructive, can justify the handing out of an MIP. But when the student had simply been participating in a college tradition in a safe manner that has been present for years, an MIP charge is outrageous.

  5. daniellwang Says:

    I think that it is important to remember that the underage drinking law was put in place to protect minors. Before the age of 21, the human brain is still undergoing important developmental processes that can be hindered by excessive alcohol consumption. The American Medicall Association found that “adolescent drinkers scored worse than non-users on vocabulary, visualspatial and memory tests and were more likely to perform poorly in school, fall behind and experience social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence”. (Read more at http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/alcohol/harmful_consequences.pdf) These results can even be considered trivial to when you consider the possibility of brain damage or death. I think the rationale of the government is that it would rather hand out MIP’s and scare students into abstanince rather than let them cause permanent damage to themselves or even die.

  6. bmazus Says:

    The underage drinking issue is a decades old conversation. Ever since the drinking age was changed from 18 years old to 21 years old college students have been in uproar about the law. I truly believe that there are two sides to the question you are asking. On one hand it does seem like an extremely petty crime for a college student to go out drinking, but on the other hand it is still considered breaking the law no matter how socially acceptable it may be.
    The truth is that by getting an MIP you are breaking the law and you technically are a criminal. I think the system that we currently have here in Michigan is adequate for punishing offenders. It is socially understood that the majority of college students are going to drink and sometimes they will drink too much. I am firm believer that most people who receive an MIP are not drinking within reason and they deserve to get punished. If a minor makes this mistake once I believe they should be punished but they should get off somewhat easy, as they do in our system. If they make this mistake twice they should undoubtedly have to receive the full punishment for the crime, and this is what happens.

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