Bill Reducing Penalties For Underage Drinkers Moves Ahead In Michigan Legislature

LANSING (WWJ) – A bill to reduce the penalties for a first minor in possession of alcohol offense has been approved by the Michigan House criminal justice committee.

“This legislation would for a first offense for a minor in possession to be a civil infraction instead of the current misdemeanor,”  explained Jessica Avril-Hammon, a legislative aide for bill sponsor State Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge).

Jones had said the idea is to balance the need to deter young people from drinking with the understanding that students who make mistakes shouldn’t end up with criminal records that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Under the legislation, minors would be fined $100 on the first offense. The second offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days and a $200 fine. The third offense would suspend drivers’ licenses for minors caught with alcohol, which already is the case. Penalties would increase to up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for subsequent violations. At each offense, the judge would be able to order substance abuse treatment or community service.

Those critical of the bill include Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon) wonder if this sends the wrong message to Michigan youth.

“Is it possible that making the first offense a citation only will just delay the minor taking such an offense seriously?” she asked.

The committee Tuesday also approved a bill to provide for the suspension of a driver license for a third MIP offense.

The bills now move to the full House for consideration.

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