Story by Luisa – Maria Michiu, Reporter
On June 14, 2015, Senator Rick Jones introduced Senate Bill 0332 (2015). As of March 3 this year, this bill has passed through the Senate and was in a House committee discussion. This Michigan Senate bill centers its focus on reducing the severity of consequences for a minor in possession of alcohol charges.
In further explanation of this bill, Jones claimed that his reasoning for initiating this bill derived from being contacted by many worrisome parents who were very upset about their children receiving misdemeanor charges. He continued on with saying that young people have found that having a misdemeanor on their record prevents them from getting college scholarships, admitted into universities, and of course, future job opportunities.
Currently, Michigan law mandates that for any alcohol-related violations for individuals under 21, a misdemeanor charge is placed upon them automatically. The first violation charges a fine of no more than $100; the second violation charges a fine of no more than $200, along with imprisonment for less than 30 days if a previous probation order was violated; a third violation results in a fine of not more than $500, along with possible imprisonment of less than 60 days if the previous violation was violated.
MIP laws have indeed been modified these past few years. However, their focus was aimed at medical amnesty. House Bill 4393 took effect in June 2012, which now excuses minors from legal prosecution if the minor requests special medical attention for a legitimate reason after consuming alcohol.
Jones stresses the fact that it’s crucial we go beyond current policy and ensure that the consequences are reduced for all first-time MIP offenders. Although former Sheriff Jones is highly against alcohol abuse, he does believe that civil infractions would be an appropriate response in 95% of MIP cases.
The Students for Sensible Drug Policy Organization are saying that the drinking age should be lowered, and it should be up to the states to decide. They claim that although this legislation is headed in the right direction, it does not include the provisions that they would ultimately like to see.
Senate Bill 332 is currently in pending legislation. However, several efforts have been initiated in past months to combat underage drinking on campus. One of these efforts include a program in which the University of Michigan would alert parents of freshmen students who aroused in a second related violation. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act allows but does not require universities to notify parents when a underage student induces an alcohol or drug related violation. Another program initiated by the university is the “Stay in Blue” cell phone application, which aims to help students monitor their blood alcohol content.
Bill 332 would change state law to limit breathalyzer use that can lead to MIPs. Police who have a reason to suspect underage drinking would be able to request – rather than require – a breath test from the individual.
This bill is already supported not only by the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, but many students, parents, and officials. It is still pending legislation; however, soon we will discover the faith of Bill 332.