Contributor: Adam Justinger
Whether it’s high school or college, it seems that someone is always talking about a party they threw back in the “glory days.” What people don’t talk about is the possible penalty for purchasing, possessing, or consuming alcohol under the age of twenty-one. Common questions I get include: 1) Will I go to jail?; 2) Will I have to pay fines/fees?; and 3) Will I have to attend classes/treatment? As of August 1, 2021, the answer to some of these questions has changed.
Prior to August 1, 2021, an individual under the age of twenty-one years old could not manufacture or attempt to manufacture, purchase or attempt to purchase, consume or have recently consumed other than during a religious service, be under the influence of, be in possession of, or furnish money to any individual for the purchase of an alcoholic beverage. An individual who was charged with minor in consumption (MIC) or minor in possession (MIP) faced a class B misdemeanor. A class B misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of thirty (30) days in jail, a $1,500.00 fine, or both. Additionally, under state law, an individual was required to attend an evidence-based alcohol and drug education program and could be ordered to participate in outpatient treatment.
However, this all changed after the most recent legislative session. During the sixty-seventh legislative session, House Bill 1223 was introduced and later enacted. House Bill 1223 reduced the penalty for a MIP/MIC from a B misdemeanor to an Infraction. This change took effect on August 1, 2021. So, what does this mean?
An infraction in North Dakota is punishable by a maximum penalty of a fine of $1,000.00. As such, a person found guilty of MIP/MIC no longer faces the possibility of jail time if they are convicted of a first offense MIP/MIC. Repeat offenders could possibly face jail time if they were previously convicted at least twice of MIP/MIC. However, under state law, a court is still required to sentence a violator to an evidence-based alcohol and drug education program in addition to the fine imposed. The court may also still refer an individual to an outpatient addiction facility.
Although most of this blog is about the criminal implications associated with MIP/MIC, it is important to note a very important exception. An individual under twenty-one is immune from criminal prosecution for MIP/MIC if they contact law enforcement or emergency medical services and report that another individual under twenty-one years of age is in need of medical assistance. If someone you are with is suffering a medical emergency, make the call. It could be the difference between life and death.
While MIP/MIC’s no longer carry with it the threat of jail time, they can still remain on an individual’s record. This could potentially cause future issues with education, employment, etc. If you or someone you know is charged with an MIP/MIC, it is likely in your best interest to contact an attorney to review your case and advise you on the best strategy moving forward. For help with criminal matters in North Dakota or Minnesota, please contact Adam Justinger at SW&L Attorneys in Fargo at 701-297-2890. For future articles, check out our blog. This article is for informational purposes only.