Minor in Consumption of Alcohol in Texas
Minor in Possession and Minor in Consumption of Alcohol Attorney in Austin, Texas
CONTACT ME AT 512-457-5200
When the school year starts back up, many students will begin their college adventure at one of the impressive academic institutions that are in and around Austin, Texas. The Austin area boasts the likes of the University of Texas, Texas State University in San Marcos, St. Edward's University, Southwestern University in Georgetown, among others.
While some will be embarking anew at one of these universities, others will return and reunite with old friends. With each new school year comes new friendships and experiences. Part of the "College Experience" is partaking in everything that "University Life" has to offer. Along with the advanced academic education that takes place in college, "University Life" also includes social events like fraternity parties and visits to bars.
Going to parties and bars is all well and good if you are legally allowed to drink, but what if you are not? Even when they are not of the legal drinking age, many students may feel pressure to drink to fit in. Unfortunately, in most cases, drinking alcohol is built into the very fabric of social life at colleges and universities across the nation, along with many high school campuses in and around Austin.
But the question remains, is the pressure to fit in with the crowd worth the risk?
In this post, I discuss the risks and consequences of law enforcement catching you drinking, or as they call it in the Texas Penal Code, "consuming alcohol" or "possessing alcohol" when you are under the legal drinking age of 21 (underaged).
In a previous post, I also discussed Fake IDs and how they are a hot commodity on college campuses because they allow an underage student the ability to purchase alcohol and drink without being 21. My post noted that there are consequences for being caught with a Fake ID or attempting to buy alcohol but what if someone else purchased your favorite bottle of vodka or case of beer and you happen to get caught with it?
It is quite common for law enforcement officers to catch minors in possession of alcohol.
Examples include: A nosey neighbor called the police to report a noise complaint due to a loud party. Once the police arrive on the scene, the officers find an underage host serving alcohol to his young friends. Another example is when someone under 21 gets pulled over by law enforcement and has alcohol (unopened) in the vehicle. Even drinking alcohol is not allowed in Texas, you would also be surprised by how many police catch in public walking around with open containers. The above circumstances are just a few examples where police might charge someone with minor in possession of alcohol. You must be aware that an alcohol charge is not what you want to deal with at the start of a new school year.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code states that a person under the age of 21 commits the offense of Minor in Possession (MIP) of Alcohol when he or she: is holding, in control of, transporting or anything else an officer could construe or misconstrue as "possession." Like every criminal offense in the United States, at trial, the State must prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. An officer only needs probable cause, however, to arrest someone or issue a citation for a charge. Moreover, the State can prove either actual or "constructive" possession at trial.
The code is particular, and in addition to the examples cited above, an officer can issue a MIP charge can merely for taking empty cans or bottles to the trash or holding an alcoholic drink for a friend.
Possession of Alcohol by a Minor is a Class C Misdemeanor offense. Punishment must include participation in an alcohol awareness class (which can vary in costs), 8 to 40 hours of community service, and a 30 to 180 days of suspension of your driver's license. For minors who have previous alcohol convictions and are 17 years of age or older, the consequences can also include fines ranging from $250 to $2000, a driver's license suspension for up to one year, along with up to 180 days in the county jail.
MINOR IN CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL (MIC)
Minor in Consumption of Alcohol is a little more straightforward. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code describes it as a minor consuming an alcoholic beverage. The punishment range for a MIC is the same as a MIP, and officers issue MIC citations under many of the same circumstances described above as examples when an officer might issue a MIP citation.
While it is not a Public Intoxication charge, a Minor in Consumption is simply a person under the age of 21 who has been drinking alcohol. Charging someone with MIC does not preclude an officer from also adding additional offenses such as Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) if the officers find the underage drinker near alcohol containers.
A lot of folks hold the same misconception about Minor in Consumption of Alcohol charges that they do about Public Intoxication offenses. They believe in proving these offenses that an officer must get a blood alcohol reading from either the accused's breath or blood. For both of these offenses, this is not true. Officers often charge Minor in Consumption, based only on the smell of alcohol on the underage drinker's beath.
Minor in Consumption is punishable as a Class C Misdemeanor. The consequences are the same as a MIP charge, which includes an alcohol awareness class, community service, and a suspension of your driver's license or delayed issuance of a driver's license or permit. If the minor is under 18 years of age, the court may require the parent or legal guardian also to take an alcohol awareness class with the minor. If the underage drinker has prior alcohol-related convictions, he or she will no longer be eligible for a deferred disposition.
There are some limited circumstances in Texas where it is legal for a minor to possess or drink alcohol. These include:
- While in the course and scope of employment if the minor by a TABC licensed establishment;
- If the minor is in the visible presence of his adult parent, guardian, or spouse, or another adult to whom the minor has been committed by a court;
- If the minor is under the immediate supervision of a commissioned peace officer engaged in enforcing the provisions of this code; or
- If a licensed "Career school or college" provided the alcohol for "tasting" purposes as part of a course.
It is also crucial to remember that if an underage drinker calls Emergency Services for an alcohol-related overdose or poisoning that law enforcement CANNOT charge the "good samaritan" with any of these offenses. The caller must remain on the scene with the person who is sick and cooperate with medical and law enforcement personnel once they arrive. Do not be afraid to help a friend in need! Again, you will not face charges if you are requesting medical assistance for a possible alcohol-related overdose or any other form of intoxication that could potentially cause injury or loss of life.
If the State has charged you or someone you know with an underaged alcohol-related offense, give me a call at 512-457-5200. While I cannot guarantee an outcome, I can assure you that I will work tirelessly to get you the best possible result. I am experienced working in the county and court offices that surround Austin. I have represented young offenders from citations arising out of incidents from campuses, including the University of Texas, St. Edwards University, and Texas State University.
Call my offices today at 512-457-5200 to discuss your case!
And remember never to hesitate to call 9-1-1 if you or a friend are experiencing medical distress as a result of alcohol intoxication.