Under Arizona law, it’s generally illegal for anyone under twenty-one to possess alcohol. Under the minor in possession statute, you can be prosecuted for simply possessing alcohol, even when it hasn’t been opened. That’s because an MIP citation doesn’t require proof of consumption; it only requires proof of possession. Whether your holding case of beer, glass of wine, or bottle of liquor, you can be charged with MIP.
ARS 4-244(9) reads that “it’s unlawful… for a person under the legal drinking age to buy, receive, have in the person’s possession or consume spirituous liquor.” This criminal charge is common in Arizona’s Criminal Courts—especially in Tempe, Scottsdale, Tucson, and Chandler.
To discourage students and minors from drinking, Tempe, ASU, and Scottsdale police issue criminal MIP tickets. Arizona’s officials emphasize that the objective is to combat the dangers of underage drinking. Sadly, the unspoken goal is to generate revenue for government agencies. While Arizona touts a noble pursuit, we’re left with kids getting permanent criminal records. Young adults, and their parents, are left to mitigate the negative and lasting impacts of a publicly-recorded criminal case.
Tobin Law Office frequently represents young adults, and consults parents, on MIP cases. Typical courts we appear in for MIP charges include Tempe Municipal Court, Kyrene Justice Court, University Lakes Justice Court, and Scottsdale City Court.
For out-of-state clients, we’re often able to handle the case so that they never step foot in the courtroom or return to Arizona.
What does possession mean in MIP Cases?
Arizona law recognizes different types of possession. Actual Possession is where you knowingly had direct physical control over alcohol. This might be where alcohol is found in your hand, clothing, or a bag you’re carrying. Constructive Possession means the defendant knowingly exercised dominion or control over it, either acting alone or through another person. Under this theory, there might be alcohol in a dorm, house, bedroom, bar, restaurant, or car. While you can be charged under a constructive possession theory, it’s usually harder for the prosecutor to prove due to plausible explanations.
Possession of alcohol can be sole or joint. Sole possession means, acting alone, you had possession of alcohol. Joint possession means that you shared possession with one or more individuals. The joint possession theory can be harder to prove because the others represent reasonable doubt.
Exceptions to Arizona’s Minor in Possession Law.
There are a few exceptions to the MIP statute. Pursuant to ARS 4-226(3)(a), minors can have alcohol for medicinal purposes. In addition, under ARS 4-226(4) and ARS 4-249, minors can have alcohol for religious purposes. Under either exception, the alcohol cannot endanger the health or safety of the public. Our office finds that these exceptions rarely come up in criminal cases.