During the summer months, outdoor activities surrounding the water are very popular for families, teenagers, and college students. With the increased activity, law enforcement (including game wardens) can typically be found patrolling areas, checking the IDs of young people with alcohol. Thus, minor in possession and other related charges typically spike during summer. Before anyone makes the decision to engage in underage drinking, knowing the consequences can let you know whether you can afford to get a citation.
Texas law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol. Possession does not mean “intoxicated.” Thus, your first sip of that Shiner can cost you as much as your fifth one halfway down the river. A minor in possession charge is a Class C misdemeanor. Punishment includes a fine, community service hours, possible driver’s license suspension, and mandatory attendance at an alcohol/drug awareness class. The fine can be up to $500 for the first offense, or after two offenses and the minor is above the age of eighteen, up to $2000. In addition to paying the fine, the judge MUST order the minor to complete an alcohol or drug awareness program (which you must pay for). For minors under the age of 18, the court may also require the parent/guardian to attend the substance awareness class. If the minor lives in a smaller county (less than 75,000 people), the court may allow the awareness class be taken online. In these more rural counties, the online class requirement can be replaced with eight more additional hours of community service related to substance abuse. Minors placed on deferred adjudication and minors convicted must complete both the required community service hours and the substance awareness class. If for some reason the court does not allow deferred adjudication, and the minor is subsequently convicted, his/her driver’s license will be suspended for at least 30 days for a first- time offense.
Another headache to think about is the requirement that the minor charged see a judge in the county he/she was cited in. This can be troublesome if the minor is on vacation 7-8 hours from home. However, there is an affirmative defense to minors for either consuming or possessing alcohol. In the legal world, an affirmative defense means, “Yes, I did what you say I did, but there are other facts that actually make me not guilty.” Under the law, a minor cannot get in trouble for drinking or holding an alcoholic beverage when that beverage is consumed or possessed in the visible presence of the minor’s adult parent, guardian, or adult spouse.
If your child has been cited with an MIP, it is important to seek out defense counsel. As the attitudes towards deferred adjudication and severity of the offense differ, local attorneys are in the best position to help you get a clear picture of how your minor’s situation will likely be resolved.