I could almost feel the collective sigh from college (*ahem*) students everywhere as I read the amendments to the minor-in-possession statute. The legislature has designated a minor’s first offense of buying, having, or consuming alcohol as a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor. See 2016 PA 357. The amendments aren’t effective until January 1, 2018, so it's definitely best for youths to postpone consuming celebratory adult beverages for a while.
The present statute allows a court to defer and dismiss first-time MIP violations for those who plead guilty and successfully serve a probationary term. Once first violations are decriminalized in 2018, second-time offenders will be able to seek dismissal under the statute. This means that minors will have two opportunities instead of one to avoid a record for MIP violations (i.e., first offense, civil infraction; second offense, dismissed). As before, however, you only get one misdemeanor MIP dismissal.
So why the change? The cynic in me doubts it has to do with an appreciable rise in sound decision-making regarding alcohol. The Senate Fiscal Analysis of this legislation contains a possible clue—reducing incarceration and court costs. In 2014, courts reported to the State Court Administrative Office 9,300 first-offense MIP convictions. In contrast, there were 365 second- and 176 third-offense convictions. According to the fiscal analysis, “[i]f the proposed change in offense classification resulted in lower court and incarceration costs, and civil infraction revenue remained the same, there could be a net benefit to local law enforcement entities.”
In addition to changing the criminalization scheme, 2016 PA 357 appears to address a constitutional problem with the statute. Presently, peace officers can “require” a minor to take a preliminary chemical breath analysis if they have reasonable cause to believe the minor has consumed alcohol. Caselaw had held the “require” component of the statute and similar local ordinances unconstitutional. Under the amended statute, officers may only “request” that a minor take a preliminary chemical breath analysis. See 2016 PA 357. Refusing to submit to this test will also no longer be a civil infraction.
To find out more about these changes, check out chapter 4 in Michigan Drunk Driving Law and Practice.