If your child gets slapped with a minor in possession charge, you may be blindsided and unsure of what is involved. Will they be fined? Have to spend time in jail?
In this post, we’ll detail what you need to know about minor in possession charges and how to fight back with the help of a knowledgeable lawyer.
Texas Minor in Possession Laws
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code prohibits the following activities for those under the age of 21:
- Purchase of alcohol
- Attempt to purchase alcohol
- Consumption of alcohol
- Possession of alcohol
- Driving or operating watercraft or motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol
- Misrepresentation of age
This law essentially prohibits a minor from making any contact with alcohol. Here are examples of situations where this may apply.
- Touching alcohol
- Holding alcohol
- Consuming alcohol
- Transporting alcohol
While a minor can lawfully be in proximity to a legal consumer of alcohol, he or she cannot have constructive possession of the alcohol. Examples of constructive possession include the following scenarios:
- Driving or riding in a vehicle where alcohol is readily available
- Sitting at a table where a pitcher of alcohol is available
- Gathering empty alcohol containers to discard
- Holding alcohol for another person
- Using an alcohol container as a spittoon or repository
If your child has been accused of minor in possession in Texas, it’s important to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney to understand how the law applies in your unique situation.
Exceptions to Texas’s MIP Law
There are four main areas of exceptions that allow a minor to be in the presence of alcohol in our state.
- If the minor is in the visible presence of a parent, legal guardian, or spouse, the law will not apply.
- Another exception is possessing alcohol within the scope and course of employment, as long as the employer follows regulations.
- A minor is also allowed to purchase or possess alcohol if supervised by a peace officer who is enforcing minor in possession laws.
- A minor may also be protected from liability if he or she makes a request for emergency medical care for another person who may have overdosed on alcohol.
Three stipulations apply in this last scenario. The minor must have been the first person to make the call for emergency help, and the minor must have remained at the scene until emergency help arrived. The minor must also act in full cooperation with emergency medical workers and law enforcement officers.
Check with an attorney to know if an exception applies in your child’s case.
Penalties for a Minor in Possession Conviction in Fort Worth, Texas
Penalties for a minor in possession charge can be serious. This offense is charged as a Class C misdemeanor, and if your child is convicted, he or she could face the following penalties.
For a first offense, a conviction can result in between eight and 12 hours of community service. These community service hours are preferred to be related to education about and prevention of alcohol misuse. Additionally, the court system will revoke the defendant’s driver’s license for 30 days and they will be required to attend alcohol awareness training and make a report after 90 days of treatment. Failure to complete the program could result in further revocation of a driver’s license for up to six months.
Alternatively, the result of a first offense could be a deferred disposition or adjudication.
If two or more previous offenses led to convictions in the same area, the defendant must pay a fine between $250 and $2,000, serve a jail sentence of up to 180 days, or both. Additionally, he or she can expect to serve between 20 and 40 hours of community service for a subsequent offense, have their license revoked for 60 days for a second offense, and for 180 days for three or more offenses. They will also have to complete alcohol awareness training, and the penalty associated with failing to complete this program after subsequent offenses is a one-year driver’s license revocation.
In all cases, the defendant or defendant’s parents or legal guardians will be responsible for any court fees.
Obviously, this is something that no parent wants to have to think about, but the reality is that there is a lot of underage drinking going on at Texas universities, and you aren’t around to stop it. Hopefully your young adult will make smart choices, but if they don’t and end up getting caught, you need to know what you’re up against.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.