Texas law strongly prohibits minors from possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages, regardless of the amount. If a police officer finds anyone under the age of 21 breaking this law, the court will likely issue a Minor in Possession (MIP) charge.
Understanding a minor in possession charge
A MIP charge is a class C misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. Depending on the severity of the offense, a judge might impose jail time, especially if the minor has prior offenses. Additionally, a MIP conviction may result in suspension or revocation of your driver’s license or even deferment from college courses. Furthermore, some employers will not hire applicants with previous convictions.
Defense against a minor in possession charge
There are instances where the court can dismiss, reduce or even acquit a MIP charge. For instance, in Texas, a police officer must have probable cause to stop or search you. In other words, they must see you carrying alcohol, smelling it or even driving recklessly before stopping you. If the officer does not have probable cause, then any evidence obtained from such a search could be inadmissible in court. Additionally, if you were unaware that you were drinking alcohol, for example, if someone else gave you a beverage that contained alcohol without notification, your criminal defense attorney may use this too to reduce or dismiss the charge.
If the court found you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you can still petition for an expunction. An expunction removes all mention of the charge from your official records. This includes police reports and court documents; however, it does not erase any public records such as newspaper articles or online databases. To be eligible for an expunction, you must have completed all court-ordered sanctions and fines imposed by the judge. On top of that, you must wait at least two years after completing your sentence to apply for record sealing.