Possible Changes to the MIP Policy
Senator Rick Jones has recently developed state Senate Bill 332, which would change the Minor In Possession (MIP) policy in the state of Michigan.
In the state of Michigan, MIPs are distributed to anyone under the age of 21 who possesses alcohol or has consumed alcohol above the legal limit, which is a 0.02 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). If the minor is driving a vehicle, the Zero Tolerance Policy applies, which indicates that the BAC must be 0.0. MIPs are misdemeanors and it stays on the record of anyone above the age of 16.
Jones originally developed Senate Bill 332 to turn the first time a minor is given an MIP into a civil infraction. Civil infractions are closely related to driving tickets, and they result in a fine.
Senate Bill 332 also originally made the second MIP a civil infraction, but this time with an increased fine. The third time would be a misdemeanor and it would go on the minor’s personal record.
However, Jones has changed Senate Bill 332 in order to gain support from the judges.
“In order to get the district judge’s support, the sub to the bill says you only get one time where it would be a civil [infraction] and the second time would be a misdemeanor,” Jones said.
According to Jones, the first civil infraction would result in a fine around one hundred dollars. After the first offense, the fine would stay about the same.
“The second time the fine would probably be similar but there would be court costs involved and you would have a permanent criminal record,” Jones said.
Jones believes that although an MIP is a serious offense, the initial misdemeanor punishment may not be quite as effective as Senate Bill 332.
“I take alcohol offenses very seriously, but I do think that giving somebody a permanent criminal record the first offense is quite harsh,” Jones said.
Jones isn’t alone in this belief. According to a Highlander survey, 71 percent of Seaholm students believe that Michigan’s current MIP policy is too harsh. Concerning Senate Bill 332, 77 percent of those students think that changing the first offense to a civil infraction is a better alternative.
According to Seaholm College and Career Counselor Judith Stahl, when a student who received an MIP applies to college, they must report the offense to a Conduct Review Committee that reviews the situation described.
“The student must clear the Conduct Review Committee, or such named committee, of an institution prior to being considered for admission,” Stahl said. “Of course, this process varies from institution to institution.”
Senior Claire Kelly* received an MIP at a party when she was a sophomore.
“Someone upstairs yelled ‘cops’ but I was in the kitchen so I couldn’t run out because the cops had already gone in,” Kelly said. “Someone had opened the door for them because they didn’t know it was a cop. Everyone else who was in the basement ran into the woods.”
According to Kelly, herself and about five boys remained in the kitchen while the Bloomfield Township Police officers came into the home. The police officers had her take a breathalyzer test along with everyone else who remained.
“They [the police officers] basically cornered me and I had to blow,” Kelly said. “There was a kid there who blew only 0.02 and he got an MIP.”
Kelly’s blood alcohol content level was a 0.22, which is above the legal limit for a minor.
Kelly’s parents later picked her up from the party. Two months later she received a letter in the mail informing her that her presence in court was mandatory.
“I went to the judge and they asked a lot of questions,” Kelly said. “He basically gave me a paper and said the things I had to do for probation.”
Since Kelly was under the age of 16, she didn’t have to go in and take a breathalyzer each morning. Instead, her punishment was more focused on what she could learn from the experience.
Kelly believes that the way students view police officers in the Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills cities is partially dependent on the manner in which MIPs are distributed.
“I feel like in Michigan people now get MIPs like tickets,” Kelly said. “So many people get them now that people don’t really view it as different. People need to look up to cops, they shouldn’t be afraid of cops.”
Kelly’s punishment did have an influence on her and the way she viewed underage drinking.
“I had to do 24 hours of community service, I had to go to a driving class, I had to go sit at the district court and watch people get arrested and get sentenced to jail and that was terrifying,” Kelly said. “The judge after asked what I learned from it and I had to explain.”
The MIP is not on her permanent record because she was 15 at the time, but she still feels as if the punishment may have been too harsh.
“I personally think that’s [Senate Bill 332] such a good idea because some kids when they get MIPs feel like their life is literally over and they get so upset,” Kelly said. “Its an awful thing to happen.”
Kelly’s belief that an MIP may bring complete destruction in the mind of a student may be common. However, Stahl contacted numerous colleges and universities in the state of Michigan about whether or not the MIP report has a large impact on the application process and admittance of the student.
“Another selective school in Michigan advised me that unless it’s a serious infraction involving serious harm to another individual or academic fraud, the admission review remains the same,” Stahl said. “What really helps the student is being upfront and honest about it – acknowledge they made a mistake, own it, and apologize.”
Jones believes that minors may drink partially because they may not realize that an offense is a possibility. Due to this, he thinks a civil infraction the first time would be a better wake-up call to the minor.
“I think that young people who drink alcohol think that they can never get into trouble or they wouldn’t take the chance,” Jones said.
Jones is pleased with the approval he has received from the public, and he thinks that many people agree that a criminal record on the first offense may be too harsh.
Although Kelly said that she learned a lot from her experience, she supports Senate Bill 332 out of practicality.
“Kids are in high school and they’re going to drink,” Kelly said.
*This is not the actual name of the source. This name has been randomly assigned to protect the identity of the source.