Bills to ease penalties for minors who are caught with alcohol have cleared the state Senate.
Under current law, a first minor-in-possession (MIP) offense comes with a misdemeanor charge and possible jail time. The legislation would make it a civil fine. The state Senate approved the bill with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Supporters say one MIP offense can make it tough for young people to get a job. “This is outrageous, criminalizing young people for having a beer or even a beer in their system,” said bill sponsor Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge).
State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) was one of only two Senators to vote “no.” “I just feel that you’re encouraging underage drinking,” Schuitmaker told reporters after the vote. She says judges already have options to ease penalties in certain situations. “For those that say that it’s too harsh, you already have tools in the tool chest to allow to make sure that somebody’s life is not ruined by one mistake.”