Hundreds of young people in Pullman are caught with alcohol each year in Whitman County. The legal consequences may be changing for these M.I.P. charges. Whitman County may be adopting a pre-charging diversion program similar to the program in Kittitas County. The new program may go into effect in January, 2013.
Here is how things may change:
Students are cited for Minor in Possession of Alcohol, or Publicly Exhibiting the Effects of Alcohol. They have to appear in court, and usually have to hire a lawyer or apply for a public defender. If they are a first time offender, they may try to get a plea offer where the case is continued for 12 months on the condition that the individual stays out of trouble and the charge is dismissed at the end. Alcohol Drug Information School may be ordered.
Potential New System:
Students caught with alcohol are not formally charged in court. Rather, they receive a notice in the mail inviting them to participate in the pre-charging diversion program. The student pays a fee of $500.00 and agrees to stay out of trouble, to perform community service hours, and obtain an alcohol / drug evaluation to make sure they are not “chemically dependent.” If the participant stays out of trouble and does what is expected, then they are never charged. The advantages of the new program are: 1) not having to go to court, 2) decreasing the legal fees, and 3) avoiding having a criminal charge on a person’s record.
The word is that the system will be a lot like the system that Kittitas County uses for MIP charges there, including a lot of case with students from Central Washington University. Here is how it works there. This letter will arrive in the mail.
Then, you are asked to fill out a couple of forms to apply for the MIP program.
In Kittitas County a person has to provide a statement as to how they obtained the alcohol. This can be kind of awkward if you have to name names. Whitman County may not be using this form.
It is best to consult with a criminal defense lawyer even when going through a pretrial diversion program.