2017-03-16 / Front Page

Hundreds of MIPs expected this week

Zach Perkins

Minor in possession of alcohol is a common offense on the beach in Port Aransas during Spring Break, and this year’s holiday doesn’t look to be any different.

Scott Burroughs, chief of the Port Aransas Police Department, expects to see anywhere from 300 to 700 minor in possession (MIP) citations this Spring Break.

“MIP is the most common offense during Spring Break,” said Duncan Neblett Jr., judge of the Port Aransas Municipal Court and justice of the peace of Nueces County Precinct 4.

PAPD, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Nueces County Sheriff ’s Office will be handing out tickets during the holiday, from Friday, March 10, to Sunday, March 19.

The TABC, PAPD and other law enforcement agencies don’t actively search for underage drinking during Spring Break. It typically falls in their laps, according to the agencies.

Most TABC actions are taken when the public makes the agency aware that someone is not of age, said Chris Porter, a spokesperson for TABC.

Burroughs said it is not hard to notice underage drinkers. Most times, kids try to hide their beer when they see police nearby, he said.

Police may use their discretion when deciding whether to write a citation for MIP or minor in consumption (MIC), Burroughs said. (An MIC can happen when a minor is no longer in the possession of a container of alcohol, but has consumed it.)

A juvenile under the age of 17 has a higher chance of receiving a citation for MIP or MIC, according to Burroughs. He said if a minor is nearly 21 and not causing any harm, PAPD will likely issue a warning and confiscate the alcohol.

Six MIPs or MICs were cited by PAPD between Saturday, March 11, and Sunday, March 12, according to police reports.

An MIP is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, the lowest penalty group of criminal offenses in Texas, equivalent to a traffic stop, Neblett said. It is punishable of a fine up to $500, eight hours of community service, a six-hour alcohol awareness course and a 30-day license suspension for first-time offenders, he said.

A second offense is punishable of a fine up to $1,000, 20 hours of community service and a 60-day license suspension, Neblett said.

Neblett said he tries, in court, to set MIP defendants on a straighter path.

“You like to think you can tell them something that makes them know that they are making poor choices,” said Neblett.

But he admitted that words of wisdom from a judge won’t always help.

“If they are not disciplined at home, (a judge) is not going to change their life,” Neblett said.

Although both Burroughs and Neblett don’t believe MIPs to be a major issue amongst local kids, police do tend to cite them, occasionally.

Students at Port Aransas High School are selected for random drug and alcohol tests under the 2016-2017 extracurricular code of conduct, said Sharon McKinney, superintendent of the Port Aransas Independent School District. This document is sent home with students at the beginning of each school year and is signed and returned.

Police are required by law to give school officials arrest records of all students under the education code, said Burroughs.

Burroughs said that school officials normally already know when a student has been arrested before police hand over the information.

“Usually, we find out from the parent or the student,” said McKinney. “This (MIP) is a concern for young people everywhere, including Port Aransas.”

According to Neblett, the majority of MIP cases that come before him are people between the ages of 16 and 18.

Here’s what some might consider to be an odd wrinkle in Texas laws on alcohol consumption and sales: An exemption exists under the Alcoholic Beverage Code that allows a parent or guardian to buy a minor alcohol at, for instance, a restaurant.

The parent must be within reach of the minor while and after the alcohol is consumed. It is up to the establishment whether to serve the parent under these conditions, Burroughs said. If the minor is given alcohol by a parent, then leaves the area, he or she can be cited for an MIP or MIC, according to the chief.

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