A minor is prohibited under Utah criminal law from possessing or consuming alcohol, or having any measurable concentration of alcohol as determined by a breath, blood, or urine tests. Often called “consumption by a minor,” “minor in possession,” or “MIP,” this criminal charge is a misdemeanor that carries with it severe consequences including substantial fines, losing your driver’s license, and even time in jail.
Adults as “Minors” under Utah Alcohol Laws
A person who reaches the age of 18 is, for most legal purposes, considered an adult. However, Utah law provides an exception to this rule in the context of a criminal charge for the possession or consumption of alcohol. For these purposes of criminal prosecution, a person is still considered a “minor” until the age of 21.
In addition to just “possession” of alcohol, Utah law also makes it a crime for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase, attempt to purchase, or to solicit another person to purchase an alcoholic product. Giving alcohol to a person under the age of 18 can also result in charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Evidence Required to Support an MIP Charge
Because our state and federal constitutions both provide for a presumption of innocence, the police must support an MIP allegation with evidence. The evidence can come in the form of an admission by the defendant, testimony from a witness, physical evidence found by police, chemical test results, and more.
Often, police will arrive to investigate after any alcohol has been consumed or removed from the premises. In such circumstances, the police may have to depend on admissions made by those on the scene to prove that a minor had consumed alcohol. In some cases, police will try to administer a blood, breath, or urine test to detect the presence of alcohol or an alcohol metabolite. Without a warrant, the results of such tests may be subject to a motion to suppress.
Any minor suspected of consuming alcohol has important constitutional rights. Under the Fifth amendment you have the right to refuse to answer questions or speak to the police officer about the alleged criminal activity. The Fourth amendment provides you the right to decline chemical testing for alcohol without a warrant. (Please be aware that Utah’s implied consent rules provide penalties for individuals suspected of DUI who refuse to take a chemical test for the detection of alcohol.)
MIP and Driver License Suspension in Utah
A conviction for possession of alcohol by a minor can result in a driver license suspension, even if the offense did not involve a vehicle. With a first MIP offense, a minor can complete an alcohol education class which can shorten the length of the driver license suspension. For subsequent MIP convictions, a court may require a sworn affidavit certifying that the defendant has not consumed alcohol for at least one year during the period of the driver license suspension.