Minor in Possession – MIP

Michigan Minor in Possession – MIP, By William A. McNeil, Of Counsel for The Law Offices of Raymond Purdy

If you have been charged with an MIP in Western Michigan, Attorney McNeil, Of Counsel for The Law Offices of Raymond Purdy, has been defending these charges for over 11 years. He has the knowledge of the local court systems and mutual respect of the prosecuting officials to make sure that you feel you received the best possible defense. He has obtained numerous dismissals and has protected the records of countless others through the diversion programs offered throughout West Michigan. Contact Attorney Ray Purdy today at 1-616-502-1646 for a free consultation.

Hiring An Attorney For Your Minor In Possession Case

If you have been charged with a Minor in Possession of alcohol, it is time to take this charge seriously. I have seen a disturbing trend among college students to simply plead guilty, pay the fine, and move on with their lives. They have other things to worry about like classes, grades, and their future employment. However, they seem to forget that the criminal process CAN affect their classes, their grades, and their future employment! One of the best reasons to tell your parents is to assist you in the important decision of whether or not to hire an attorney. Parents typically have more ability to devote the time necessary to complete this exhausting task. They also have their child’s best interest at heart and will do everything it takes to make sure they are protected.

Minor in Possession is a Serious Case

My experience in representing minors charged with possessing alcohol is that very few attorneys handle these cases on a regular basis. They are considered “small” cases with “small” retainers and “small” consequences. Many times the students and their parents, already burdened with the costs of attending college, cannot afford to hire an attorney and need payment plans. However, these are not “small” cases by any means. They are actually HUGE cases due to the impact they can have on a student’s future. The fact that the retainers are much less than other misdemeanors seems to keep the best and brightest from accepting these cases on a regular basis. In most college towns, it has been my experience that there are usually two or three really skilled and passionate attorneys who specialize in Minor in Possession cases and student issues.

Considerations When Deciding to Hire An Attorney

Remember that you are the customer! I firmly believe that the old adage “the customer is always right” should be applied to potential clients. A good attorney should listen to the problems of the client and provide simple and straight forward advice on how they would handle their case. Do not be afraid to ask questions of your attorney. You have the right to ask them if they handle this type of case on a regular basis, what their experience is with handling MIP cases, if they have had success in the past representing students, and their strategy for handling their case. This includes their billing policies.
Most attorneys who handle criminal defense cases will charge some form of flat or fixed fee, depending on the case.  I typically charged a fixed or flat fee based on my estimation of the work needed to handle the case and my past experience in handling that type of matter. I also include a full jury trial in my fixed fee so that I can represent my student throughout the criminal process. Many attorneys charge a separate trial retainer that must be paid before they will represent the client at trial. This is perfectly ethical and acceptable, but the problem with this fee arrangement is it injects a monetary consideration into the mind of the client when deciding whether or not to exercise their right to a jury or non-jury trial. That is why I always include a jury trial in my fixed fee so that the student knows that once they retain my office, they have me throughout the entire case, start to finish. It is a fact that most cases do not proceed to trial, but that extra assurance that we can say to a prosecutor with conviction that “we are going to trial” can mean all the difference in a negotiation.

Criminal Defense is Often Times All About Leverage

My international relations professor at The University of Michigan tells the story of playing chicken with Saddam Hussein.  He explained that the reason it is so difficult to play chicken with him is that while both of you are driving full speed at each other, Saddam Hussein all of a sudden rips the steering wheel out of the column and throws it out the window for all to see.  Who do you think will swerve at that point? It is no different when deciding whether or not to go to trial. The prosecutor does not feel like wasting a day picking a jury and conducting a jury trial with jury instructions, rules of evidence, breaks for the jury, and deliberation time. The client does not feel like putting their life story on display for the public and wasting a day of their life. But when you can confidently tell the prosecutor that you are not accepting their plea offer and that you and your client are prepared to force them to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the steering wheel has been thrown out the window. Will the prosecutor swerve and offer a dismissal, delay or diversion?

A Written Fee Agreement is Important

Although most jurisdictions do not require that a fee agreement be in writing, except for certain types of cases, you should get your fee agreement in writing from the attorney. This will make sure that you understand what you are getting for your money and what the attorney will or won’t be able to handle in the fee accepted. I always provide a written fee agreement for my clients and include in writing that my fee includes a full jury or non-jury trial. In addition, I specifically indicated that I do not handle any appeals or administrative hearings (school disciplinary hearings, suspensions, etc.) and that the fact that a third party may be paying the retainer (i.e. mom or dad or grandma or grandpa) does not affect attorney-client privilege. Simply put, just because mom or dad pays the retainer that does not mean that I can tell them everything that is said during conferences. I always ask the student if I can speak with their parent about the case and most of the time the lines of communication are fully open. However, I have had instances where the student has opted to tell me some facts that have not been disclosed to their parents. These facts MUST be held strictly confidential and the parent cannot interfere in the case. If the student decides on a course of action, they are the client and not the parent.

Communication With Your Attorney is a Must

Another factor to be considered in hiring an attorney to represent a college student is communication. Nearly every college student will have email. Therefore, I am always accessible through my iphone email for clients or their parents to ask questions and get quick responses. You should ask the attorney whether or not they will communicate through email. It is a quick and easy way to stay in touch with your attorney and his or her staff. Often times I am representing a student whose parents live out of state and must communicate through phone and email. I typically email my fee agreement for review to both the student and their parents. I will then have the student sign the fee agreement and fax it back to me through an internet fax program that converts the document to a PDF for easy electronic case storage. I will also accept credit card payments through a secure internet merchant account and my clients can pay their retainer on my website through PayPal whether they have an active account or not. All of these means of communication speed the hiring process and allows the attorney to quickly file their appearance with the court (notice that they will be representing the student) and start gathering evidence to mount a defense.

Hire an Attorney to Represent Your Best Interests

In conclusion, I will almost always advise parents to hire an attorney to represent their son or daughter’s interest. The rare exception is if the parents do not have the financial means to hire any attorney and the facts of the case justify a diversion which is offered at the first hearing. Otherwise, I advise parents to call several different attorneys and gather as much information as they can on the criminal process of their jurisdiction that the reputations of attorneys in the area. One way that I have been successful in finding the best criminal defense attorney in a particular jurisdiction is to call a corporate law firm. If they do not handle any criminal defense matters, they will typically refer you to the attorney who handles their white collar criminal cases or who represents the children of the CEOs and managers of the companies they represent. Bottom line: ask a lot of questions and take the process seriously.