Buying Beer in the Student Union – Minor in Possession

Buying Beer in the Student Union

Drinking, as your parents will admit, if they’re honest, is an expected and largely tolerated part of college life. If your parents are old enough, they remember when you could buy beer in the student union—back then the drinking age was eighteen.

But now, sorry to say, things have changed. These days, the University of Arizona police hand out “MIP” tickets like candy. They catch you when you’re stumbling back to your dorm at 2:00AM. No one told you that when you signed up that at University of Arizona, getting charged with a crime is now part of the educational experience.

The Dean of Students Office

Fortunately, the University of Arizona Dean of Students Office, at least in my view (I’m a lawyer who handles many Arizona Dean of Students referrals), is pretty reasonable, on the whole. They have a good sense of proportionality, many of them are grad students themselves—at least they’re reasonable when it comes to the plain vanilla MIP’s. Typically, they give you something called “diversion” (not to be confused with criminal court diversion—see below). The Dean’s Office has you take a “civic responsibility” class. Maybe an alcohol class. You pay a $110.00 fine. Your parents get a letter. Maybe on your second MIP, or third, if you’re dumb enough to get them, they kick you out of the dorms. At some point, if you don’t straighten up, they stick you on probation. Technically, they can suspend you for MIPs, but I’ve never seen it happen.

Criminal Cases

But the thing to understand is that, in Arizona, an “MIP” is also a crime. And because you’re going to a State school, the University (State) police enforce a “zero tolerance” policy. University police don’t always charge MIPs criminally. But when they do, you have to go to court.

Don’t get Dean’s Office “diversion” confused with criminal court diversion

With an MIP criminal citation, you have to go to Pima County Justice Court (if the University Police cited you), or Tucson City Court (if Tucson Police Department cited you off campus). If you miss either court, they’ll issue an arrest warrant for you. Even if you were taking a mid-term. I’ve seen it happen.

Diversion Programs

Fortunately, both Justice Court and City Court have their own “diversion” programs. Unfortunately, they’re not automatic.

Confusingly, on a true first offense, the criminal prosecutor, in Justice Court only, sometimes works hand-in-hand with the University Dean’s Office. It’s a special deal: on its face, a two for one. Do what the Dean’s Office tells you, get the paperwork delivered to the judge, and the criminal case is gone. Dismissed. But don’t assume you will be offered that, even if your friends were. And don’t assume that you’ve completed criminal court “diversion” by only doing what the Dean’s Office tells you.

Getting Accepted to Criminal Court Diversion

You’ve got to “apply” for criminal court diversion. The prosecutor has to “offer” it, in his discretion. Much of the time, you’ve got to take their classes (which are longer than the University’s), and jump through their hoops. Take their tests on alcohol and drugs. Abide by their strictures (no drinking or drugs). This generally only works, at least easily, for first-or sometimes second-time offenses.

MIP Priors

However, if the prosecutor gets wind that you have a prior MIP citation, even if it was dismissed, sometimes he won’t offer you diversion. At all. Then you run the risk of having a criminal record. And having to check the black box on your internship application. Forevermore. So you’ve got to be careful about getting MIP’s. Especially multiple MIP’s. Those of you who have them know what I am talking about.

Fake ID Citations

That’s another story, and I have a separate blog article on them. Fake ID’s: Three Things that Might Surprise You. But what you need to remember is: (1) having a fake ID is a separate crime that gets taken somewhat more seriously than just a plain vanilla MIP [diversion isn’t as easy to get]; (2) if you’re caught trying to buy beer with a fake ID, they can also suspend your license to drive for six months, whether you win the criminal case or not.

Avoid “Red Tag” Parties

There’s four specific places on and near campus in Tucson that you’re seventy-seven percent more likely to get cited for MIP: (1) walking around on campus, especially near the dorms, or the frat houses, in the post-midnight wee hours—a nice auxiliary officer in a golf cart will “check” your “welfare”; (2) on occasion, hanging peacefully in your own dorm room—and talking about Marxism with your boring roommate—especially if your RA is not a cool guy (remember: you have virtually no privacy rights in the dorms); (3) going to any off-campus party that gets “red tagged” by the Tucson Police Department “Community Response Team”; (4) driving in a car, anywhere around campus late at night.

And, you’re at greater risk, statistically, I should mention, just by being in a frat. If, conversely, you like to spend your Saturday nights in the Engineering Library, you’re probably in good shape.

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