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What Happens for Being a Minor in Possession of Alcohol?

So the cops shut down the party and gave everyone tickets for MIP (minor in possession)?  Or they found your son or daughter in the parking lot of a football game with an open bottle or can of beer?
In a Nutshell:  A citation for being a minor in possession (MIP) of alcohol can be handled one of two ways, each of which can involve suspension of the minor’s driver’s license for up to one year.  A minor is defined for purposes of MIP as anyone under 21.
There are two possible ways this can be handled by police and charged by a prosecutor: 1) under Penal Code § 25620, as an infraction for open container only, or 2) more seriously, under Penal Code § 25662(a), minor (under 21) in possession of alcohol, a misdemeanor.

If filed as an infraction, defendant may get the easier deal wherein he or she may have to write an essay about how alcohol is dangerous and defendant may have to do some community service.  The judge has discretion as to how to handle one’s driver’s license and usually does not suspend it.
Art 301 - Airport CourthouseAirport Courthouse

If the case is filed as a misdemeanor, on a first time offense, there is a mandatory $250 fine ($500 second offense), plus penalties and assessments at the court that can boost the total check you'll write to over $1,000.  There is also 24 to 32 hours of mandatory community service, a youth DUI program and one-year license suspension (or a one year suspension delaying your ability to obtain a license if you have yet to be issued it).  If it is a second conviction of this, add one more year to such a suspension or delay.  

When the license is suspended, you can apply for a critical needs restricted license to the Mandatory Actions Unit of the DMV in Sacramento to allow you to get to work, school and alcohol classes only.  Under Vehicle Code § § 13353.8 (anyone) and 13202.5(c) (in the case of a person under 21), a California driver’s license holder can petition the DMV to issue a restricted license in lieu of suspension based on a “critical need” to drive.  Such a license is called a “critical needs” license.

This restricted license can be based upon three basic grounds in general – school, medical needs or employment.  More specifically, they are:
  1. School or other public transportation options are inadequate for regular attendance at school and other activities authorized by the school.  This application requires a signature by the school principal verifying such facts.  The DMV may then issue a restricted license or even a junior permit allowing restricted driving privileges to and from school and school activities only.
  2. City or county transportation options are inadequate and operation of a vehicle is necessary due to the illness of a family member.  The application needs to be signed by a physician familiar with the illness and should provide a diagnosis, as well as an estimated date when the need for emergency transportation will end.
  3.  Public transportation is inadequate and the individual needs use of a motor vehicle to travel to and from employment, the pay from which is essential to providing food, clothing and shelter.  Essential in this context means that the pay from work must constitute a substantial portion for an individual’s or the family’s basic life necessities.
In our experience, when applying for such a “critical needs” restricted license, it is smart to “go all out.”  We recommend printing out a current public bus transportation route map to show the DMV that the public bus stop nearest one’s home is far away.  It is also best to show that other members of the household, by name and date of birth, do not have a valid driver’s license.  

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We also recommend presenting the judge handling the case a declaration explaining why such a license is necessary and asking for the court to sign a Petition for Restricted License, although the DMV is not bound to honor this.  We do, however, present this to the DMV to help our client’s application.  

If the court does notify the DMV of the conviction, an actual thirty day suspension must usually be served prior to issuance of a critical needs restricted license.  If the DMV approves such a restricted license, a $125 license reissue fee must be paid and proof of insurance must be shown.

For more information about juvenile offenses in general, click on the following articles:
  1. What Is the WIC 654 Program for Juvenile Accused of Crimes?
  2. What Is Disturbing the Peace (Penal Code § 415)?
  3. What Should I Wear and Bring to Court?
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