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Delaware MIP Laws

Possession laws that affect minors in Delaware are not limited to illegal drugs, but can also include the alcohol and drug paraphernalia.  The severity of the crime is often determined by a combination of factors, including the age of the minor, if there are previous offenses, the nature of the substance or item that is being held, and the amount of and intent for the substance in question.  All of these points will play a part in whether the offender receives a felony or a misdemeanor charge.  These factors are also critical in sentencing and fines that may be accrued.

Being under the legal drinking age of 21, and getting caught with alcohol in your possession is a crime in Delaware. You can be arrested for underage possession of alcohol or, minor in possession. Getting caught underage and intoxicated, trying to purchase alcohol or possessing alcohol is a crime that will have serious ramifications on your academic future, your driving privileges and your ability to get and maintain employment.

If you have been caught with alcoholic beverages in your possession in New Castle County Delaware, Kent County Delaware or Sussex County Delaware please call me, Delaware Lawyer Brian J. Chapman at 302-656-2528. With many years competently and successfully handling Minor In Possession and Underage Possession cases in Delaware I possess the skills and experience to effectively represent you. I acknowledge that you are a good person and made a mistake. I will convey that to the prosecution and help you to the best of my ability.

In Delaware, anyone who is under the age of 21 is considered a minor for alcohol possession and drug possession, although in cases of drug possession, juveniles as young as 18 may be charged as adults, depending upon circumstances.  Anyone who is under the legal drinking age and is caught consuming, purchasing, or carrying alcohol will be considered a Minor in Possession (MIP), except for limited exceptions.  The only exceptions for possession and consumption are allowed if the alcohol is a part of a religious observance, or if the minor is in their private home and under the supervision of their legal parent or guardian.

For alcohol related offenses, there are several charges that a person may be arrested for.  The most common ones are:

  • When a minor drinks or possesses alcohol
  • When one minor purchases alcohol for another minor, or sells alcohol to another minor
  • When a minor fabricates information in order to obtain alcohol
  • When a minor enters and consumes alcohol in a licensed establishment.

Although the first charge is factor of the other charges, the circumstances of the offense will often lead to greater punishment which is decided beyond the initial offense.

Fake IDs

Falsifying information, using a fake ID or lying to obtain alcohol will cause a minor to receive a jail sentence as well.  The fines for an initial charge are $100 to $500, and between $500 and $1,000 for subsequent arrests.  False statements also include incarceration, with a first charge resulting in 30 days in jail and any future charges for the same crime resulting in 60 days in jail.  Possession penalties can apply on top of these sentences.

Should a minor enter and remain in a bar or licensed package goods store, the minor becomes subject to arrest and MIP charges.  The business proprietor faces a fine of $50 for allowing entry alone.  If the minor remains upon the premises then the fine is raised to $100.  Should the minor be served, then the charges and penalties that are applicable to selling to a minor will also pertain.

Penalty Fines and a Loosing Your Driver’s License

In the state of Delaware, consumption and possession carries fines and a loss of driver’s license.  In-state residents can expect $100 fine and a thirty day revocation for the first offense.  Subsequent offenses can carry between a 90 to 180 day license suspension.  Out of state residents who are charged and arrested in the Delaware will face fines, which can range from $100 for an initial infraction and from $200 and up for any further charges.

For underage individuals who either purchase alcohol for a minor or sell alcohol to minor, penalties can ensue for all parties involved.  The individuals will be subject to the penalties for possession, and the person who is purchasing, selling or distributing will also face an additional fine of between $200 and $500.  The failure to pay this fine will result in 30 days in jail.

Possible Minor in Possession Law Exceptions in Delaware

The state of Delaware has exceptions to underage possession laws. They are:

Possession or consumption of alcohol in connection with any religious service is legal

Possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages given to you by members of immediate family, i.e. parent, legal guardian or spouse, within the confines of those family members homes is legal in Delaware.

Focus of Delaware MIP Laws

Delaware’s Minor in Possession laws focus on reducing the possible social consequences of having minors on the road who may be using alcohol or other substances. If a minor under the age of 21 is found to be in possession of alcohol, that person will have their driver’s license revoked. The length of time depends upon a person’s record and the other aggravating factors that might be involved.

Penalties for Underage Possession Conviction in Delaware

— On the first offense: Revocation of driver’s license for a period of 30 days.

— On the second offense: Revocation of Delaware driver’s license for at least 90 days, but no more than 180 days.

— On third and subsequent offenses: Revocation of license for the same period as the second offense, with other penalties possible through court order.

In the event that the young person does not have a Delaware driver’s license, Delaware state law does not provide the court with an ability to revoke or suspend a driver’s license from another state or country. However, there are penalties that can be involved instead.

— On the first offense with no license: A fine of $100, usually payable within 30 days.

— A fine of at least $200 but not more than $500, usually payable within 30 days.

Of course, an underage individual may be found indigent and unable to pay these fines. If the individual is younger than 18, then other charges may be brought up against responsible adults. Purchasing alcohol for a minor in Delaware, at any age, is a serious offense that include a wide variety of other charges and punishments. The range of potential charges is exacerbated if the minor made use of a false ID or other fraudulent documents to obtain the alcohol.

Under Delaware law, many first time DUI offenders are eligible for a First Offender Election Program. The purpose of the First Offender Election Program is to provide the individual with a way to restore their driving privileges within a relatively short period of time while undergoing state mandated education. In some cases, minors may also be eligible for this program if they can demonstrate that they have an otherwise clean driving and legal record.

Drug Possession: Pot, Paraphernalia, and Other Controlled Substances

In Delaware as well as in many other states, marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 substance under government control. While the state of Delaware does acknowledge the possible medical uses of marijuana under its Health & Safety Codes, the use of medical marijuana is very strongly regulated. All medical marijuana must be obtained from a registered facility for a defined medical need under a doctor’s order.

Possession of marijuana (also known as “pot”) or related paraphernalia can result in federal charges as well as charges under Delaware state law. Driving under the influence of marijuana is recognized by Delaware statutes as a crime that can result in a fine up to $1,000, up to six months in a state correctional institution, or both.

Possession of marijuana in Delaware may be considered more or less serious depending upon the amount of marijuana that the individual possesses. Under Health & Safety Codes, possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor that can result in a fine no more than $575. Possession of more than a very small amount of marijuana can lead to charges of possession with intent to sell.

In Delaware as well as other places, “possession with intent to sell” is a nebulous category: This charge can be applied whenever any individual, not just a minor, is found with an amount of marijuana that the court determines to be not for personal use.

In other words, it is an amount that is more than a user would reasonably consume on their own. Although this is usually at the court’s discretion, Delaware statutes dictate that possession of 3,000 or more grams of “pot,” at any time, is a Class B Felony.

Other Drugs and Prescriptions

Further Minor in Possession laws in the state of Delaware revolve around illegal drugs, legal prescriptions that are not authorized by a doctor, and controlled substances or related paraphernalia.  Since Delaware does have laws that acknowledge the use of medical marijuana, possession or use with an authorized prescription may be considered legal, so long as no other infractions such as driving while impaired or intent to sell and distribute are incurred.  For prescription medications that are not medically authorized to the person carrying them, the charges fall under the same categorization as those for marijuana.

In regards to drug charges, only two infractions are considered a misdemeanor charge.  These include the possession and use of any amount for personal purposes, and the possession or use of drug paraphernalia for personal use.  All other charges are felonies.  However, sentencing for either drug misdemeanors or felonies carries both jail time and fines.

Possession Misdemeanor Charges

A possession misdemeanor has a $1,150 fine and a 6 month jail term, but this crime turns into a felony if it is committed within 1,000 feet of a school or 300 feet from a public recreational park or a place of religious worship.  In this case, the fines can increase to as much as $250,000 and as much as 15 years in jail.  Should the possession charges be coupled with suspicion of manufacture and sale, then the felony charges carry an even heftier burden.

Manufacturing or Selling a Controlled Substance

Any amount of manufacture or sale of a controlled substance can result in a 5 year jail term and a $10,000 fine.  As the amount of the substance increases, then the penalties will as well.  Minors in Possession who are accused of sale and manufacture may be subject to the full punishment of the law, although first offenders are occasionally granted probation at the court’s discretion.  Should the offender successfully pass their probation period, then their record can be wiped clean.

Possession charges and sale and distribution charges are often only distinguished by the suspicion of intent.  During hearings and court proceedings, this difference may change how a minor is processed and how severe sentencing is.  MIP charges will also require treatment and education programs, which can vary from 8 weeks to 24 weeks in duration, and may be considered by the courts as a successful completion of probation.  The legal representation that a minor may receive in light of possession charges can allow the law to actively become a lesson that leads to rehabilitation and upstanding citizenship.

Understanding MIPs Vs Underage Consumption

A minor in possession charge is possible whenever a minor holds or controls any amount of alcohol intended for personal use. On the other hand, a minor may be charged with underage consumption if they are physically caught in the process of consuming alcohol. In many cases, underage consumption is considered to be somewhat more serious than being in possession. However, this is not always the case and is up to court discretion.

There are limited circumstances under which a minor may be permitted to consume alcohol under Delaware state law. If the minor is in his or her family home and is consuming alcohol under adult supervision as part of a religious observance, then he or she generally cannot be charged with minor in possession or underage consumption. It is important that such a young person be under an adult’s direct supervision throughout the entire observance.

Delaware courts have shown willingness to demonstrate some leniency to underage offenders if they are willing to do appropriate substance abuse education and community service. It may be possible for a minor’s record to be sealed or even expunged.

Contact a Newark, Delaware Minor in Possession Attorney

Working with a Delaware Minor In Possession Lawyer is a good way to protect your rights, your future and your reputation. I will ensure your rights are protected every step of the way. Call me, Delaware Juvenile Defense Attorney Brian J. Chapman at 302-656-2528. You can also email my office by clicking here. I am a former prosecutor and have ample experience serving those charged with juvenile offenses throughout Delaware. I will effectively defend your rights while attempting to keep the negative consequences of your pending minor in possession charges to a minimum.

I proudly serve those accused of juvenile crimes throughout New Castle County, Delaware Kent County, Delaware and Sussex County Delaware. Within these counties I serve all cities, towns & suburbs in including, but no limited to, Wilmington, Newark, University of Delaware area, New Castle, Pike Creek, Hockessin, Bear, Glasgow, Claymont, Brandywine, Talleyville, Middletown, Odessa, Townsend, Smyrna, Dover, Milford, Harrington, Kenton, Little Creek, Seaford, Georgetown, Millsboro, Milton, Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, Ocean View, Laurel, Delmar and Dagsboro.