Ask Avvo: My son got a minor in possession citation — can we have it dismissed?

Crime, News

Q: My 17-year-old was at a party where alcohol was present. After a noise complaint from the neighbors, the police showed up, and my son received a minor in possession citation. He has a clean record and this is his first incident with the police. As his first offense, can we get this dismissed? It was a stupid mistake, but I’m worried this could affect his college applications or driving record in the future.

A: There are a couple significant issues to explore in this situation:


#1 Did the police have a valid reason to issue your son a citation for possession of alcohol?

Just being at a party isn’t necessarily a legal basis for a minor in possession of alcohol charge. If your son was not actually in possession of alcohol, it might be possible for an attorney to get the charges dropped based on lack of evidence. Was your son holding a can of beer when the police arrived? Did he admit to an officer that some of the alcohol at the party was his? If not, there may be a solid defense here.

This is a good time to repeat a general reminder that in a situation like this, all a person has to do is tell the officer that he or she is asserting the right to remain silent and would like to speak to an attorney. If the police walk into a room full of teenagers and alcohol, it is going to be difficult to prosecute anyone except the owner of the residence, unless one of the kids makes statements to the police that can later be used against him.

#2 If the police had a valid legal basis to charge your son, will the district attorney agree to drop the charges?

This is where a skilled criminal defense attorney with connections to the local community can make a big difference. Many jurisdictions have diversion programs or other methods whereby minor offenses can be dropped. For example, if your son did a significant amount of community service or took Alcoholics Anonymous classes, the district attorney might be willing to drop the charges.

This is a case where creativity and persistence pays off. With the right negotiating, the district attorney and judge might be persuaded that it does not make sense to damage the prospects of a promising youth.

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