Okaloosa County, FL (Law Firm Newswire) February 18, 2015 - As spring break approaches, millions of young high school and college students head to sunny Florida to vacation with their friends.
Unlike other popular spring break destinations, such as Mexico, the legal drinking age in Florida is 21 years of age, and this age limit is strictly enforced whether it is spring break or not. Unfortunately, many spring break visitors ignore this limit and attempt to engage in underage drinking while on vacation in Northwest Florida.
Underage drinking may result in more than a citation for Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) under Florida law: with the “Straight to Jail” policy implemented last year in Walton County, underage drinkers can, and do, get taken to jail and prosecuted. An individual does not actually have to be intoxicated to receive an MIP, but may be arrested for attempting to purchase alcohol, holding or possessing an alcoholic beverage, or consuming an alcoholic beverage.
One legal trick that victimizes many young people is being talked into paying a fine and signing a waiver of rights without the benefit of an attorney. In these cases, the arresting officer offers a “plea bargain” for an MIP requiring them to simply pay a fine and have the case be over. This often seems preferable for individuals who are from out of town and do not want to return to Florida for court dates. However, such plea bargains are too good to be true. Victimized young people think the matter is similar to a traffic ticket when in reality, they end up with a real criminal history that results in a flag on background checks. Those most at risk usually vatation near the beaches in Destin, Navarre Beach, South Walton County and Pensacola Beach, FL.
Criminal history – especially for a crime considered to be one involving substance abuse - can affect an individual's status at their university or college, their eligibility for financial aid, their future job and professional license prospects, and more. Though paying a fine seems simple, it often results in numerous complications in their lives down the line.
Worse, unlike MIP charges where a lawyer has been able to have the charges dismissed or acquitted, these charges cannot be directly expunged and removed permanently from legal records. Instead, they have to be sealed first, and remain sealed for ten (10) years. The victim then has to wait and hope the government does not change the law of record clearing for an entire decade.
Instead of simply accepting a plea bargain, anyone accused of MIP should contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney for help. An attorney can help negotiate or litigate in order to produce a negotiated dismissal or outright acquittal.
Stephen G. Cobb is a highly experienced criminal defense attorney who has been certified by the Florida Bar as a Criminal Trial Law Specialist. Anyone who has received a citation for MIP should not hesitate to contact his office at (850) 651-6565 to discuss their case.
Stephen G. Cobb
5 Clifford Dr.
Shalimar, FL 32579
Phone: (850) 651-6565