School is back in session. New students have had their orientation and are now moved into their dorms and aware of all the good places to go on campus. Many students have never been away from home. They are -- quite literally -- free to do what they want. Apart from studying, there's the extra-curricular activities. And for some of them, this means parties. But college is a dangerous place because you have a good mix of students who are legally able to drink and those students who are still minors. The combination of the two can present problems. Minors want to have fun, too. Who is to say they can't have a drink of alcohol to have fun?
Minor in possession (MIP) of alcohol laws were created to discourage minors from possessing and consuming alcohol. But it doesn't necessarily do the job. The University of Arizona has a history of problems with minors consuming alcohol, and the University has taken measures to counter this problem. University of Arizona police regularly handout MIP tickets. The educational experience can now quickly turn into a criminal experience.
A MIP ticket can put you at odds with: (1) the Dean of Students Office; and (2) the criminal justice system. Most schools in Arizona are zero tolerance, and when a campus officer gives you a MIP ticket, they can also charge you criminally, and if they do, then you may find yourself inside a courtroom.
The Dean of Students Office
If you get a MIP, you will likely have to attend a diversion class and may be fined up to $100 or more. If you get one MIP ticket after another one, you could face suspension or expulsion. The penalties for MIPs associated with the Dean's Office vary according to each school's policies. The effects, however, are generally the same: the first MIP ticket may not seem so bad, but by the third one, you could lose your freedom and find yourself back at home with your parents.
Criminal Justice System
If the campus officer charges you criminally with a MIP, you will have to face a judge. If it's your first MIP, then you can probably get diversion, but it is not automatic. Generally, you have to request it, through an attorney, or the prosecutor will offer it, at his or her own discretion. The classes associated with criminal court diversion are longer than the classes associated with the Dean's Office. Diversion means you won't have a criminal record, the best option for you. If you aren't offered diversion, you're most likely penalty for a first-time MIP will be fines, alcohol treatment and community service, and you will have a criminal record.
If you have any prior criminal MIPs, you could be facing a lot more penalties. Under A.R.S. 4-246(B), a MIP is a Class One Misdemeanor. The maximum penalties include 180 days in jail, 3 years probation, and up to $4575 in fines and surcharges -- that's college tuition right there. And while jail is usually not rendered, you will have a permanent record, and that alone can be more devastating that the short-term penalties.
How to Prevent a MIP in an Arizona College
The best method to prevent a MIP in college is simple: don't drink while it is illegal to do so. If you do drink, against your better judgment, you should avoid these things:
- Walking back to your dorm room in the middle of the night -- even if you are walking in a straight line, a campus officer can stop you to conduct a “welfare check”;
- Driving in a car in the middle of the night -- campus officers are particularly alert to drinking and driving possibilities, and a DUI can get you in more trouble than a MIP;
- Attending fraternity or sorority parties -- many campus officers seem to parole frat row just for this purpose: handing out MIPs; and
- Making overall better decisions about your drinking, like having a plan to get home safe without harm to yourself or others.
College is a great place for students to experience more than just academic studies. You get to make your own decisions, determine right from wrong, and decide how to respond to peer pressures. You are out in the world, for many of you for the first time without adult supervision. That is scary and exciting, but don't let this new feeling of excitement get the best of you: think about what you are doing and act responsibly. You are an adult now, and you are making decisions that will impact the rest of your life. If you do find yourself in trouble with a MIP, contact an experienced attorney, because that's the best way to get diversion and avoid a criminal record.