Selling Alcohol to a Minor

In Michigan, it is illegal for any individual or store to sell or furnish alcohol to a minorPursuant to MCL 436.1701 a person who knowingly sells or furnishes alcoholic liquor to a minor, or who fails to make diligent inquiry as to whether the person is a minor, can be charged with a 60 day maximum misdemeanor for a first offense. This can be prosecuted under either state law, or as a local ordinance.  It is common for local police to have minors, such as high school or college students under the age of 21, attempt to buy alcohol or enter bars to enforce liquor laws.  The belief that the consumer looked to be of age is not a defense, unless the minor provided an identification that was diligently checked.  It is also a misdemeanor to serve alcohol to an individual that is visibly intoxicated, or to serve alcohol after hours
 
The party store, bar, restaurant, or other business whose employee or agent sold or furnished the alcohol to a minor, sold or furnished alcohol to someone visibly intoxicated, or sold or furnished alcohol after hours faces financial and possible liquor licensing sanctions through the state of Michigan as well.   Even though the owner may not have sanctioned or permitted the conduct of the employee, the owner of the store is responsible for the training and supervision of its employees under Michigan law.  The local unit of government can request the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to revoke the license of an off premises licensee who has been found guilty of selling alcoholic beverages to minors on 3 separate occasions in one calendar year.  Other prohibit conduct inside licensed premises that serve alcohol that can lead to fines, licensing sanctions, and license revocation include (but is not limited to): the sale, possession or consumption of controlled substances; the sale use, exchange, or storage of drug paraphernalia; fighting, brawling, or the improper use of weapons on the premises; illegal gambling or gaming devices; total nudity or sexual activity; the showing of pornography; annoying or molesting customers or employees; prostitution by either customers or employees.  The business and its owners are entitled to due process of law and can contest any action taken by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.  
 
The party store, bar, restaurant, or business owner may face civil liability under dram shop laws when the sale or furnishing of the alcoholic beverage(s) is found to be the proximate cause of property damage, injury, or death of another person.  Civil litigation costs and attorney fees to defend a dram shop case can be expensive, even in instances where the civil lawsuit is dismissed for lack of evidence.  A dram shop action will also lead to higher insurance rates for the business in question.
 
A person who sells or furnishes alcohol to a minor, who is not licensed or legally authorized to do so by the state of Michigan through an employer or otherwise, also can be charged with a misdemeanor:  for a first offense, the penalty is up to 60 days in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000;  A second offense conviction has a possible penalty of up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, the Court may also order community service hours. For a second or subsequent conviction, the secretary of state shall suspend the driver's license of an individual who is not a retail licensee or retail licensee's clerk, agent, or employee.  This often occurs when the parents host a house party or graduation party where minors are drinking and the police are contacted by a neighbor or otherwise.  Fraternities, sororities, and their members also sometimes face this type of charge.  If the furnishing or sale of alcohol under this circumstance directly leads to that person's death or an accidental injury that causes that person's death, the offense becomes a felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
 
The minor who purchased or consumed the alcohol is also subject to prosecution under the Minor in Possession of Alcohol laws in Michigan, with few exceptions.  A Minor who uses False Identification to purchase alcohol can also be prosecuted, and if convicted will face a suspension of his or her driving privileges.
 

Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) is a misdemeanor offense. A first conviction does not carry any incarceration. However, if a minor is placed on probation for a first offense and violates his or her probation, the Court can subject the minor to incarceration through its contempt powers. A second or subsequent conviction for MIP allows for incarceration, and a mandatory driver's license suspension. The terms of probation that the Court can impose includes (but is not limited to): fines and costs, reporting to probation, alcohol/substance testing, alcohol/substance treatment, counseling, community service, and educational program(s).  A first time offender can seek to have the offense expunged through a first offender program. A non public record is maintained by the Court and the Michigan Secretary of State to ensure that this form of diversion is not given a second time, and for some limited employment related reasons.

 

Minor in Possession - Driving A Car, Zero Tolerance prohibits a person under the age of 21 years from operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .02 to .08. This offense is a misdemeanor offense that carries similar penalties to a operating while impaired charge. The Court can impose up to 93 days in jail, probation with probationary conditions, and fines and costs. The Michigan Secretary of State will assess 4 points, and will suspend the minor's driving privileges for 6 months. This offense is not subject to expungement.

 

Minor in Possession - Transport or Possess Alcohol in a Car is a 93 day misdemeanor that prevents a minor from transporting or possessing alcohol in a car. The exceptions to this law include being with an adult over the age of 21 years, and transporting alcohol for purposes of employment.

 

It is important to hire an experienced attorney immediately for the following reasons:

1) having a criminal conviction can have repercussions on an individual's eligibility for grants, scholarships, employment, and ability to drive a car.  An experienced criminal defense attorney can explore possible defenses, such as Constitutional Rights violations or affirmative defenses that may lead to the dismissal of the charge(s).  An experienced criminal defense attorney can make sure that you have a fair trial that gives you the best chance of prevailing if you elect to have a trial.  An experienced criminal defense attorney can get you the best result possible if you choose to plead guilty or no contest.  In some instances the lawyer can enter into plea bargains with the prosecution, plea agreements with the Court, or request statuses in the law to keep the conviction from becoming a public record.

2)   business owners need an experienced attorney to help try to maintain the licensing of the party store, bar, or restaurant with the state of Michigan.  The loss or suspension of the ability to sell or serve liquor is a severe consequence which can ruin a business.  A dram shop lawsuit also can damage the viability of a business.

3)   hiring an experienced lawyer can reduce the stress, worry, and emotional impact of the legal system. 

 

 

Sometimes in life there is only one opportunity to obtain the right result.

  

 

Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you make for yourself and your family. There are many lawyers who claim to do more than what they are able - just as there are many surgeons in the world that are no better than butchers. Do not settle for a legal hack job. Practicing law is a skill that develops over time with experience, commitment, dedication, and God given talent. There are no amateur attorneys at Hilf & Hilf, PLC – only professionals that are guided by the humanity in the individuals we serve, and the drive not to settle for what is easy over what is right.

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