February 15th the Michigan Court of Appeals said Happy Valentines’ Day to the young adults who made the bad choice to either have alcohol on them or in them.  For years, Judges have been sentencing defendants to probation with conditions, excessive costs and sometimes even jail time.  In Bloomfield Township v. John Michael Williams, docket no. 293553, the Court of Appeals answered the question once and for all. Does a district court judge have the authority to sentence a defendant charged and convicted of MIP to probation?  The Court said no. The Court looked at a conflict between the local ordinance which permitted “for a person’s first conviction for violating sec. 22-370(a), the trial court may fine the person $100 and may order him or her to “participate in substance abuse prevention services or substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation services” and may order him or her to “perform community service and to undergo substance abuse screening and assessment at his own expense…” The Bloomfield Township ordinance cited provides a greater punishment – including the possibility of jail—for second and subsequent MIP’s.

In contrast, section 22-370(c) allows the Court to impose probation on a first time offender, under certain conditions.  Specifically, when an individual who has not previously been convicted of or received a juvenile adjudication for a violation of subsection (a) of this section pleads guilty to a violation of subsection (a) of this section, the court, without entering a judgment of guilt (emphasis added) in a criminal proceeding, may defer further proceedings and place the individual on probation.

So, the answer is….. if a conviction is entered, no probation can be ordered.  If the conviction is deferred, probationary conditions can be imposed to give first time offenders an opportunity to receive alcohol or drug education, treatment, perform community service, pay fines and costs and in essence pay a debt to the community for his or her bad choice but still have no record.

The opinion is unpublished so it is persuasive jurisprudence, but not necessarily totally binding.  The Court of Appeals noted that the Township ordinance in the Williams Case was substantially similar to the Michigan prohibition against alcohol by minors.  See MCL 436.1703.

As a reminder, it is illegal for a minor to purchase, attempt to purchase alcoholic liquor, consume or attempt to consume alcoholic liquor, possess or attempt to possess alcoholic liquor, or have any bodily alcohol content.  Additionally, a police officer may with reasonable cause to believe a minor has consumed alcoholic liquor or has any bodily alcohol content require the person to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT).  The officer may arrest any minor with any amount of alcohol on or in him or her as shown on the PBT.  Failure to take the PBT allows a police officer to give one a ticket for a civil infraction.