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.
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?