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Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges in Washington

A conviction for minor in possession of alcohol can lead to unpleasant consequences for young adults. Minor in possession of alcohol in Washington is a crime and can lead to license suspensions for young people before they have even had a driver’s license. Because of the serious nature of criminal charges, it is best to consult with an attorney before making a decision on any case.

Under Age Drinking Law in Washington

Washington laws on underage drinking are complicated. In Washington it is illegal for someone under 21 to possess, consume, or to “exhibit the effects of alcohol consumption” while in public. It is either a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor depending on how it is charged. It is a defense to the charge if the minor was drinking at home with the parent’s blessing, or if the alcohol was consumed in medicine, or as part of a religious ceremony. Minor in possession of alcohol is often referred to as MIP or M.I.P., and is also sometimes written on the ticket by the police as MIPC or M.I.P.C. (Minor In Possession/Consumption).

MIP and the Courts

If a child is under 18 and is a first time offender, he or she will be referred to the community diversion board rather than go to court. However, accepting diversion on a minor in possession charge will lead to a license suspension. For a minor over the age of 18, there is no license suspension for MIP. However, defendants over 18 will be sent to adult court. Typically, a first time offender is given simple probation and ordered to go to Alcohol Drug Information School (A.D.I.S.).

Legal Issues In Underage Drinking Cases

When these cases are fought in court, the case usually turns on whether the juvenile in question was truly “possessing” the alcohol. It is not sufficient for a prosecutor to prove that the juvenile was simply present at an underage drinking party. As with all criminal laws, simply being present or witnessing a crime cannot support a conviction. The definition of “possession” is kind of a gray area under the law. Under Washington law, possession can be “actual” or “constructive.” “Actual” possession is when the minor holds the alcohol in his or her hand or in his or her backpack or purse. “Constructive” possession occurs when the minor does not have “actual” possession but the beer or wine is still in his or her “dominion or control.” For example, a minor has alcohol in his or her dominion and control when it is sitting on a table in front of him or her, or he or she tolerates other minors possessing it in his or her car.

Other Possible Charges

Occasionally an MIP charge will be accompanied by a more serious charge pertaining to possession of a fake ID or misrepresenting his or her age in a bar, or an allegation that the child purchased or attempted to purchase liquor, or that the minor will be unlawfully present in an “off-limits” area of a tavern. Individuals over the age of 21 can face charges such as furnishing liquor to a minor. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is not a felony in Washington State, but is taken very seriously by the court system. Charges of Minor Operating Motor Vehicle Over .02 can stem from having consumed alcohol and being behind the wheel.


The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer – an expert underage drinking lawyer will fight to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome in your court case. Call attorney Erin Bradley McAleer today at (360) 334-6277 to schedule a free, confidential consultation in Washington State.

Washington Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer represents clients throughout Southwest Washington State, including in Clark County, Cowlitz County, and Skamania County and Vancouver, Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Washougal, Woodland, Yacolt, Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, North Bonneville, and Stevenson. Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer focuses on the areas of Criminal Defense, Traffic Infractions, Landlord Tenant, Personal Injury, Firearm Rights Restoration, and Post-Conviction Relief (Vacating & Sealing Criminal Records).