State of the Law
Under Missouri law it is a misdemeanor for anyone under the age of twenty-one to purchase, attempt to purchase, or have in his or her possession any intoxicating liquor; to be visibly in an intoxicated condition; or to have a detectable blood alcohol content of more than two-hundredths of one percent.
In 2005, Missouri law was expanded to include so called “possession by consumption”, providing that prosecutors no longer needed to show that a minor actually purchased or possessed alcohol. Now merely appearing visibly intoxicated, or having a detectable B.A.C. will constitute a violation, even if there is no evidence of actual possession.
Many charges for Minor in Possession, also arise under the laws of individual cities, including Columbia, Missouri. The elements required to commit the offense are often almost identical to the State law, but there are often significant differences in the range of punishments available to the Prosecutor.
Remember: you do not need to operate a motor vehicle, or be over the State legal limit to be convicted of Minor in Possession. The fact that:
- You are younger than twenty-one (21) years of age at time of the violation; and
- Had physical possession of alcohol; or
- Attempted to purchase alcohol; or
- Had detectable amounts of alcohol in your breath, blood, or saliva
may be sufficient to convict you of violation of the State of City Minor in Possession laws.
Abuse and Lose: Will I Lose My License?
Under Missouri’s Abuse and Lose law, 577.500 RSMo, charges for Minor in Possession, False Identification, or Drug Possession, can now impact your right to operate a motor vehicle, regardless of whether a vehicle was involved in your underlying offense. Currently, the application of the Abuse and Lose law turns on how your charge is filed. In the large majority of first time offenses, a skilled attorney will be able to avoid ramifications for your license.
Potential license suspensions include:
- First Offense: up to 90 days suspension.
- Second Offense: 90 days suspension, or 1 year revocation.
- Third Offense: 1 year revocation.
Remember: How the charge is written will largely determine the potential for license suspension or revocation. Often, the same set of facts that could potentially impact your drivers license can be charged so as not to take you off the road at all!
Criminal Punishment: Will I Go to Jail?
Violation of the Missouri Minor in Possession law can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000.00, or imprisonment in the County Jail for up to 1 year. As a practical matter, however, the majority of convictions will receive punishments significantly below these maximums. Jail sentences for minor in possession convictions are rare, unless there is some special or extraordinary circumstance.
An experienced attorney can often minimize or avoid these punishments altogether. Through proper negotiation and strategy, it is often possible to serve probation in lieu of fines or imprisonment. As an added bonus, successful completion of such probation will often prevent any record of the underlying offense! It is therefore possible to come out of your ordeal with NO CRIMINAL RECORD!
Your Legal Rights!
Remember: You have a Constitutional right to the assistance of an attorney to defend against a minor in possession charge! An experienced attorney will be able to determine:
- Whether your acts in fact violated the law or ordinance in your Jurisdiction;
- Whether your constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure were respected;
- Whether your drivers license is at risk, and what can be done to protect it;
- Whether you are entitled to an affirmative defense excusing you from liability; and
- Whether despite guilt you are entitled to probation in lieu of conviction and thereby clean criminal record.
Attorneys at Vessel Bridges Murphy are ready to assist you. It is our hope that you find these materials useful. When you are ready, contact our offices to schedule an appointment.