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Michigan changes MIP from Misdemeanor to Civil Infraction

A bill intended to give underage drinkers a second chance passed overwhelmingly in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Under the legislation that passed on a 105-1 vote, a first minor in possession of alcohol offense would become a civil infraction, punishable by a $100 fine, instead of the current misdemeanor charge that carries a $100 fine and up to 90 days in jail.

More than 6,000 minors -- many of them in college towns -- got popped for trying to buy or consume alcohol in 2013 and were charged with misdemeanors for their youthful indiscretions, according to the most recent statistics available from the Michigan State Police.

The second offense would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine. A third offense would carry a sentence of up to 60 days and a $500 fine and possible revocation of the offender’s driver’s license.

The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, has said a young person's mistake shouldn't permanently mar their record. The bill -- SB 332 -- now moves back to the Senate for concurrence, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, with technical changes made in the House.

From 2009 to 2013, the latest statistics available from the Michigan State Police, some 38,499 people under age 21 were arrested for some sort of minor in possession charge. And counties with college towns racked up some of the biggest numbers, including: Ingham County, home of Michigan State University, with 863 citations in 2013; Washtenaw County, home to the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, with 401 MIP charges; and Isabella County, home of Central Michigan University, with 233 charges.

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