Minor in Possession (MIP) Laws and Penalties

Washington state’s Minor in Possession (MIP) law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess, consume, or otherwise acquire alcohol.

Violation of Washington state’s MIP law is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, up to 364 days in jail, or both.

If you have been charged with MIP in northwest Washington, the Campbell Law Firm can help you avoid the most severe penalties.

Washington’s MIP Statute

Under Washington Minor in Possession (MIP) statute, RCW 66.44.270, it is unlawful:

  • For a person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to a person who is under 21 years of age or permit anyone under 21 to consume liquor on their premises or on any premises under their control. In this context, premises includes real property, houses and other structures, as well as motor vehicles and watercraft.
  • For a person under 21 years of age to possess, consume, or otherwise acquire liquor.
  • For a person under 21 years of age to be in a public place, or to be in a motor vehicle in a public place, while exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor. Exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor means that the person has the odor of liquor on their breath and is either in possession of or is in close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor in it, or appears by speech, manner, appearance, behavior, lack of coordination, or otherwise to be under the influence of liquor.

Penalties of a Minor in Possession Violation

In addition to fines and possible jail time, someone who pleads guilty to or enters into a diversion program as a result of a plea to a minor in possession charge faces the loss of their driver’s license for at least one year for a first-time offense. Penalties for a second offense of minor in possession include a two-year driver’s license suspension.

A person can be charged with violating Washington’s MIP law even if they have not consumed alcohol and are not under the influence of alcohol. A person can be charged with possession of alcohol if the alcohol is anywhere around them.

Exceptions to the Minor in Possession Statute

Washington state recognizes the following exceptions to its Minor in Possession law.

    • Liquor Provided by a Parent or Guardian. The law does not apply to liquor that is given or permitted to be given to a person under 21 years of age by the parent or guardian and consumed in the presence of a parent or guardian.
    • Liquor Provided for Medicinal Purposes. The law does not apply to liquor given for medicinal purposes to a person under 21 years of age by a parent, guardian, physician, or dentist.
    • Liquor Provided for Religious Purposes. The law does not apply to liquor given to a person under 21 years when the liquor is being used in connection with religious services and the amount consumed is the minimal amount necessary for the religious service.
  • Special Permit. The law does not apply to liquor that is provided to students in accordance with a special permit issued under RCW 66.20.010(12) to allow for tasting of alcohol as part of a culinary, sommelier, wine business, or beer, wine, or spirit technology-related program.

In addition, a person who is under 21 years of age and seeks medical attention for someone experiencing alcohol poisoning will not be prosecuted under Washington’s MIP law if evidence for the charge was obtained as a result of the person seeking medical assistance.

Defenses to a Washington MIP Charge

A person facing MIP charges in Washington state may have various defenses available.

  • Not alcohol. If the substance the minor is accused of possessing was not alcohol, if there are questions as to what the substance actually was, or if the police officers made errors in identifying the substance, criminal defense attorney Justin Campbell can fight to have the charge reduced or even dismissed.
  • Exceptions to Minimum Drinking Age Laws. If any of the exceptions to Washington’s MIP law applies, the minor may be able to avoid prosecution for a MIP charge.
  • Coercion. A person who was coerced into drinking alcohol may have a defense to a MIP charge.
  • Involuntary Intoxication. If the minor’s mental capacity was affected due to involuntary intoxication, such as if they were drugged without their knowledge, they may have a defense against a MIP charge.

The Campbell Law Firm: Your Defense Against MIP Charges

Washington criminal defense attorney Justin Campbell has extensive experience defending people who have been accused of drug and alcohol-related offenses in northwest Washington. Whatever the charge, attorney Campbell will thoroughly investigate your case, offer candid advice, and defend you against the charges.

Attorney Campbell takes pride in getting to know his clients and their unique needs. He will identify the facts and circumstances that make your case unique and use those facts to fight for a fair resolution.

From his offices in Anacortes, Washington, attorney Justin Campbell represents people who have been accused of crimes throughout northwest Washington.

Learn more about the Campbell Law Firm and our criminal defense practice, then contact us today to schedule a free, confidential, 90-minute consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Categories: Criminal Defense