I wish that I realized that police reports are really more like fairy tales . One officer writes what they think happened and a supervisor often corrects it to what the officer should have written .It may not be what actually happened.
I look at all of the video and audio tapes and speak to witnesses before considering a guilty plea to a MIP, even under advisement. When numerous officers descend on a home where they suspect underage drinking I was shocked at what the police actually did. Some examples of outrageous police behavior in MIP cases include the following:
- unlawfully entering the home without permission ,a warrant or actual exigent circumstances,
-locking kids in a basement,
-conducting bizarre unscientific test, such as smelling car seats and furniture,
-failing to observe the suspect for 15 minutes prior to conducting a PBT,
-threatening the minor that they must submit to PBT or be jailed,
- using the same straws in the PBT for 10 suspects,
- trying to use a bag of old returnable cans in a garage as evidence of current drinking,
-pulling over SAFE ride drivers as they were driving college students home from a party, so the police could issue MIP tickets to the occupants.
If the police engage in this type of outrageous conduct then you can use it to have meaningful discussions with the prosecutor to possibly have your case dismissed. In all of the above listed situations where I represented the minor or minors ,charges were eventually dropped or the clients were found not guilty at trial. Some communities do not want the bad behavior of the local police department to be made public, and will not pursue the matter.
Dig deep into what really happened, spend time with your clients, interview witnesses, look at other MIP police reports from the department, are they identical ? Look at the State Police handbook to see if procedures were followed by the police. My favorite line to a trooper " But sir you are the state police don't you think these rules apply to you ?"
If your underage client does have a drinking problem then make sure you get that person the help and assistance they need so alcohol does not continue to cause them personal and legal problems in the future. I have my clients participate in a session with a therapist and also have them engage in community service. This impresses probation and the judge that your client has addressed the problem and is taking some personal responsibility.
Do not think that an MIP is not a big deal , because a conviction can certainly have a major impact on a young person and could haunt them later in life. An alcohol problem will also be an impediment to a healthy future that can be best addressed at an early age.