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Minor in Possession

Business and Professions Code 25662 BPC - Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) in California

In California, the law takes a stern stance against underage drinking, to the point that it is illegal for anyone under 21 even to have alcohol. Under Business & Professions Code 25662 BPC, being charged with “minor in possession,” or MIP, is a misdemeanor offense. 

Simply put, BPC 25662 makes it illegal for a minor to be in possession of alcohol in a public place. This means anyone under 21 may not have alcohol in their possession while on any street or highway or anywhere open to the public.

California Business and Professions Code 25662 BPC - Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP)
BPC 25662 makes it a crime for a minor under 21 to possess alcohol in a public place.

BPC 25662 says, “(a) Except as provided in Section 25667 or 25668, any person under 21 years of age who possesses any alcoholic beverage on any street or highway or in any public place or any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or the person shall be required to perform not less than 24 hours or more than 32 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed or is not attending school. 

A second or subsequent violation shall be punishable as a misdemeanor. The person shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($500) or required to perform not less than 36 hours or more than 48 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed or is not attending school or a combination of fine and community service as the court deems. 

The Legislature intends that the community service requirements in this section require service at an alcohol or drug treatment program or facility or a county coroner's office, if available, where the violation occurred or where the person resides. 

This section does not apply to possession by a person under 21 years of age making a delivery of an alcoholic beverage in pursuance of the order of a parent, responsible adult relative, or any other adult designated by the parent or legal guardian or in pursuance of employment. 

That person shall have a complete defense if they were following, in a timely manner, the reasonable instructions of a parent, legal guardian, responsible adult relative, or adult designee relating to the disposition of the alcoholic beverage.”

Although the penalty for conviction will not involve jail time for minors, it can still become a mark on their criminal record that will follow them for years to come.

What Does the Law Say?

This law explicitly states that any person under 21 years of age who possesses an alcoholic beverage in public spaces is committing a misdemeanor. For purposes of this law, the following definitions apply:

  • An “alcoholic beverage” refers to any beverage intended for consumption that contains at least half a percent alcohol. This definition includes virtually all common forms of alcoholic drinks, including beer, wine, spirits, hard liquor, and mixed drinks.
  • Possession” refers to either personal or constructive possession. Personal possession means the individual is holding the drink or has it on their person; constructive possession means they have control over the beverage (e.g., in their car). Constructive possession also includes shared possession (e.g., two teens sharing a beer—both can be charged no matter who holds it).
  • A “public space” is any area open to the general public. This definition includes streets, sidewalks, parks, beaches, shopping centers, and public gatherings.

For a charge under BPC 25662 to hold, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Age: The individual must be under 21 during the offense.
  • Possession: There must be clear evidence that the individual had personal or constructive control over the alcoholic beverage.
  • Location: The possession must occur in a public space or any area accessible to the public.

What are the Exceptions to BPC 25662?

As with most laws, certain exceptions apply to BPC 25662. Some of the standard exceptions include:

  • Religious purposes: This law does not apply if a minor's possession of alcohol is for religious purposes (e.g., taking communion at church).
  • Parental supervision: If a minor is in possession of alcohol while under the supervision of their parent or legal guardian, they are exempt from this law. However, it is still illegal for parents or guardians to provide alcohol to minors who are not their children.
  • Employment purposes: In California, minors between 18 and 21 may legally serve alcohol in food establishments without being considered in possession of it. However, they cannot serve alcohol exclusively as bartenders until age 21.
  • Calling 911: If a minor calls for medical help for an underage person in danger due to alcohol consumption (either themselves or someone else), they are immune from prosecution for MIP per BPC 25667.

What are the Penalties?

The penalties for MIP law are designed to be corrective rather than punitive; however, the lingering consequences can directly impact the minor's life without a successful defense against the charges.

Immediate Legal Consequences

  • Fines: Minors caught in possession of alcohol will face fines of $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.
  • Community Service: Courts typically mandate community service hours, ranging from 24 to 36 hours, depending on the circumstances and the minor's history.

Long-Term Impacts

  • Criminal Record: While a minor won't go to jail for a MIP conviction, it's still a misdemeanor offense that can result in a criminal record, which may affect future employment opportunities, college applications, and scholarship eligibility.
  • Driver's License Suspension: Under Vehicle Code 13202.5 VC, minors convicted of possession can have their driver's license suspended for one year or delayed for one year if they are below driving age at the time of the offense. Each successive offense results in another year of suspension.

What are Related Crimes?

There are a few California crimes related to a minor in possession of alcohol in a public place, such as the following:

  • Vehicle Code 23140 VC – underage DUI. This law makes it a crime for anyone under 21 to drive with a BAC of .05% or higher. Underage driving under the influence is an infraction punishable by a fine of $100 (first offense), a one-year driver's license suspension of driving privileges, and a mandatory alcohol education program of three months or longer.
  • Business and Professions Code 25658 BPC - selling or furnishing alcohol to a minor. This law makes it a misdemeanor crime to sell or give alcohol to a minor under the age of 21. It's also illegal for a minor to either purchase an alcoholic beverage or consume it in a place where alcohol is sold or be an on-sale licensee and permit someone under 21 to consume an alcoholic beverage on the premises.
  • Business and Professions Code 25661 BPC – possession of fake ID. This law makes it a misdemeanor for minors to possess or present false identification, such as presenting a fake ID to a business to buy alcohol or simply possessing a fake ID.

What are the Common Defenses?

Given the ramifications of a conviction for MIP, a skilled California criminal defense attorney can employ several defenses against a MIP charge. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of Possession: Being in the vicinity of alcohol does not necessarily constitute possession. The attorney may demonstrate that the accused did not have physical control or ownership of the alcoholic beverage.
  • Private Property: The possession occurred in a private setting, not open to the public, where the law does not apply.
  • Age Misidentification: Providing evidence that the accused was 21 or older at the time of the alleged offense.
  • Legitimate Employment: Showing that the possession was directly related to the individual's employment and carried out in accordance with their job duties.
  • Qualified for an Exception: If the possession qualifies for one of the exceptions to the rule (e.g., under parental supervision, calling 911), the charges may be dismissed.

Contact our law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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