It’s back to school season! As students head back to colleges and universities across the country, they are welcomed with social activities galore. Alcohol is a common, recurring theme throughout college festivities.

College freshmen are at the highest risk of alcohol misuse and dangerous consequences. Many students are living away from home for the first time. Newfound freedom, social pressures, and new stressors often contribute to irresponsible decisions about drinking. Too often, there are tragic consequences resulting from alcohol misuse and binge drinking for college students, such as death or injury, assault, and sexual abuse. There are also legal consequences, which can be extremely detrimental.

As a new year academic year begins, it is a great time to remind college students about underage drinking laws and legal consequences in Washington State.


What is a Minor DUI?

Washington State has a zero-tolerance law for minors driving under the influence. Under the Washington State statute RCW 46.61.503, if you are under the age of 21 and either driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle with a breath or blood alcohol content of .02 or greater within 2 hours of the time of the incident, you can be arrested for Minor DUI. If a person under 21 provides an evidentiary breath or blood alcohol sample equal or greater to .08, they may be charged with an adult DUI (RCW46.61.502).

What are the penalties of a Minor DUI conviction?

A Minor DUI is a misdemeanor charge. A conviction can greatly impact the future of an underage driver. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Penalties are at the discretion of the judge, up to the maximum. Commonly, the judge will order community service, work crew, fines, or alcohol classes as alternatives to jail time. A Minor DUI arrest also triggers a mandatory license suspension of at least 90 days by the Department of Licensing.


What is Minor in Possession?

Minor in possession / Minor in consumption of alcohol (MIP/MIC) is a common offense. The potential criminal consequences and effects on driving privileges can be very detrimental.

According to Washington State statute RCW 66.44.270:

  • It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control
  • It is unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one years to possess, consume, or otherwise acquire any liquor.
  • It is unlawful for a person under the age of twenty-one years to be in a public place, or to be in a motor vehicle in a public place, while exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor.

What are the penalties of a Minor in Possession conviction?

Surprisingly, the penalties are harsher for the underage drinking convictions MIP/MIC than for Minor DUI. Penalties are more severe for teenagers drinking in a park than driving under the influence with a BAC level of .02 to .079.

A Minor in Possession charge in Washington State is a gross misdemeanor. A conviction can carry penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and a maximum of 364 days in jail. License revocation may be for 1 or 2 years dependent on whether it is a first conviction.

*Please see our prior blog post for more detailed information about Minor DUI and Minor in Possession (statutes and penalties).

Legal Representation

High quality, thorough legal representation is essential for individuals facing a Minor DUI or a MIP conviction. Consequences can be great. Minor DUI and drug crimes can have serious impact on the future of a young person. Our goal is to protect the records of our clients so lapses in judgment do not foreclose opportunities. Consider that the following can be negatively impacted with minor drug and alcohol convictions:

  • College Admissions
  • Eligibility for Federal Student Loans
  • School or College suspensions
  • Suspension or Revocation of Driver’s License
  • Future employment opportunities
  • Ability to Enlist in Military
  • Ability to travel to Canada or other countries

These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.