Minor Possession in Washington State
It happens more often than we’d like to think. Research shows that a minor in Washington is charged with possession nearly every weekend. So what can you do? This article will further discuss MIP charges and your options.
Minor in Possession (MIP) Laws in Washington
Several teenagers are charged with MIP in Washington every month. Although the charges can seem straightforward, the consequences can be complicated. The potential to lose driver’s license privileges or experience criminal charges can vary greatly depending on the circumstances surrounding the charges.
It is crucial to consult an experienced attorney regardless of the circumstances, as your options may be limited in advocating for your teen.
What Are My Options?
In many cases, prosecuting attorneys will be open to the option of a pre-trial diversion or continuance program to obtain a dismissal. Convincing a prosecutor to agree to one of these programs can be important, as it can result in avoiding criminal convictions, thereby keeping your minor’s record clean.
Sometimes, a diversion program can be entered into to reduce or eliminate charges for your minor. It typically involves signing up for a state-certified drug and alcohol class.
A stipulated Order of Continuance agreement is a contract between your child and the prosecuting attorney’s office that allows your child to complete varied requirements with the promise that possession charges will be dismissed.
Prosecutors are not required to offer these diversions or other similar programs. This is when a trusted and experienced attorney can benefit you and your child. An experienced attorney can help get you started with steps you can take now to allow for a more lenient outcome for your child.
What is “Actual” or “Constructive” Possession?
Washington state views possession as either “actual” or “constructive.” An active possession occurs when your child is caught “red-handed” with the substance, resulting in a MIP charge.
“Constructive” possessions occur when your child isn’t holding the substance in their hands but it is in their control. Examples of this include when a child is sitting directly near a substance or allows the substance to be consumed in their vehicle.
Whether the charges reflect an actual or constructive possession can also influence whether or not prosecutors are more or less likely to allow for an eventual dismissal or diversion.
What are Typical Punishments for a MIP in Washington?
The state of Washington regards MIP charges as gross misdemeanors. Gross misdemeanors can result in a maximum of 364 days in jail and fines of up to $5,000. Most people charged with a MIP are not at risk of receiving the maximum penalties. Still, no one is 100% safe from the maximum penalties associated with a gross misdemeanor, and the specific penalties will vary depending on the arrest circumstances, criminal history, and facts of the case.
If your child is a first-time offender under 18, they will likely be encouraged to enroll in a diversion program. Enrolling in this program, however, can result in the loss of their license temporarily.
If they are over 18, there is typically no loss of a license, but they are generally referred to adult court to face the consequences.
It can be crucial to discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced attorney to navigate the options and determine the best strategy for your child and your family moving forward. Almost no two cases are the same in scope, and the circumstances can make your options vary greatly.
Other Consequences of Importance
Other consequences are essential to note. While a MIP may not seem like the end of the world, it can have significant consequences. If convicted, your minor may lose their driver’s license, serve jail time, and be subjected to substantial fines.
They may also be prohibited from attending the college of their choice or pursuing employment opportunities with a gross misdemeanor on their record that can be revealed during a background check. If probation is required, your child may not be able to move out of state until the probationary period has successfully been completed.
Exceptions to MIP
Sometimes, a MIP will come with exceptions. These are not bulletproof, but if any of the following circumstances surround your minor’s charges, it is important to explore them with an attorney:
- The substance was consumed as part of a religious ceremony with an adult present.
- The substance was consumed in a private residence, given to the minor by their parent or guardian, and consumed in their presence.
- Or, the substance was prescribed by a medical professional and taken as prescribed.
An Experienced Attorney is an Extension of Your Advocacy For Your Child
As discussed above, a MIP on your child’s record can come with devastating and lasting circumstances. Working with an attorney with specific experience in these charges will provide clear expectations and guidance regarding the next steps. They will work with you to form a successful strategy and become an extension of your fierce advocacy for your child and their future.
Contact our office today at (253) 383-3328 to speak with one of our passionate and skilled team to learn more about your options. Time is of the essence, and remaining proactive rather than reactive to these charges can be of great importance to your child’s future.