America is different than Europe and the rest of the world in many ways. When it comes to alcohol, one big difference is the legal age an individual can purchase and consume alcohol. In California, a person must be 21 to purchase and consume an alcoholic beverage. Moreover, being a minor and possessing an alcohol beverage in public could lead to a criminal charge.
California Business and Professions Code section 25662 prohibits minors, under the age of 21, from possessing an alcoholic beverage in any public place. The short term for this offense is "MIP," minor in possession. A MIP is a misdemeanor, meaning that it carries potential ramifications on a person's criminal record. One cannot go to jail, but there is the possibility of significant community service hours.
Not as well-known is the penalty related to a person's driver's license. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code section 13202.5, a person convicted of MIP will face a one-year license suspension, or a one-year delay in obtaining a driver's license. Each subsequent offense carries an additional year of suspension or delay. Thus, a person convicted will not only face a fine, community service, criminal record, and a license suspension, he or she will also be burdened with trying to find transportation to and from obligations.
Like with every criminal charge, there are available defenses that could result in a dismissal. An illegal search or seizure, i.e. no probable cause, will be favorable to a defendant. Also, there are written exceptions to MIP. A person working as a waiter or server cannot be convicted if he or she is performing duties related to their employment.
Perhaps the most magnanimous decision by the legislation was to add immunity to a minor who calls 911 for purposes of aiding a minor who needs medical attention due to alcohol consumption. It is a wise amendment because it saves lives; the law encourages individuals to seek help, instead of trying to avoid criminal prosecution.
There are some common sense requirements for the immunity to be applicable. The caller must be the first caller to 911. So if there is a party, not every single minor will receive the benefits of the law, if each one calls separately. The caller must also stay on the scene and cooperate with law enforcement or medical emergency personnel.
A minor in possession charge is a misdemeanor with serious consequences. If you, or someone you know, is charged with MIP, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney for assistance.