Many students are unaware that if they transport or possess alcohol in a motor vehicle, the owner of the car can be hauled into court to show cause why the vehicle should not be impounded. We all know that cars driven by MSU students are typically owned by the parents. This is done for liability as well as insurance purposes. However, this can create legal troubles for the parents due to a law that puts the car at risk if there is any consent to use.
The law is MCL 257.624b:
Transport or possession of alcoholic liquor by person less than 21 years of age.
(1) A person less than 21 years of age shall not knowingly transport or possess alcoholic liquor in a motor vehicle as an operator or occupant unless the person is employed by a licensee under the Michigan liquor control code of 1998, 1998 PA 58, MCL 436.1101 to 436.2303, a common carrier designated by the liquor control commission under the Michigan liquor control code of 1998, 1998 PA 58, MCL 436.1101 to 436.2303, the liquor control commission, or an agent of the liquor control commission and is transporting or having the alcoholic liquor in a motor vehicle under the person’s control during regular working hours and in the course of the person’s employment. This section does not prevent a person less than 21 years of age from knowingly transporting alcoholic liquor in a motor vehicle if a person at least 21 years of age is present inside the motor vehicle. A person who violates this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor. As part of the sentence, the person may be ordered to perform community service and undergo substance abuse screening and assessment at his or her own expense as described in section 703(1) of the Michigan liquor control code of 1998, 1998 PA 58, MCL 436.1703.
What this means for MSU students: If you are under 21 and you transport alcohol in any form (even if it is in the trunk), you could be charged with a misdemeanor in Michigan. The only exception is if you are riding with someone over 21. However, you need to be careful with this as the driver of a vehicle may have constructive possession of contents found in the vehicle and police could charge you with a Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP). There is also an exception if you are transporting under the liquor control code (a beer truck driver basically).
(2) Within 30 days after the conviction for a violation of subsection (1) by the operator of a motor vehicle, which conviction has become final, the arresting law enforcement officer or the officer’s superior may make a complaint before the court from which the warrant was issued. The complaint shall be under oath and shall describe the motor vehicle in which alcoholic liquor was possessed or transported by the operator, who is less than 21 years of age, in committing the violation and requesting that the motor vehicle be impounded as provided in this section. Upon the filing of the complaint, the court shall issue to the owner of the motor vehicle an order to show cause why the motor vehicle should not be impounded. The order to show cause shall fix a date and time for a hearing, which shall not be less than 10 days after the issuance of the order. The order shall be served by delivering a true copy to the owner not less than 3 full days before the date of hearing or, if the owner cannot be located, by sending a true copy by certified mail to the last known address of the owner. If the owner is a nonresident of the state, service may be made upon the secretary of state as provided in section 403.
What this means for an MSU student: This is where the statute gets scary. Immediately after a conviction for this charge, the court could issue what is called a show cause order to the owner of the vehicle. This is the person on the title (usually your parents!). A show cause is basically an order from the court to appear and “show cause” why the vehicle in question should not be impounded. This means they could take away the vehicle for a period of days. If the true owner fails to appear, a bench warrant for their arrest could be issued. Not good news at all for a parent.
(3) If the court determines upon the hearing of the order to show cause, from competent and relevant evidence, that at the time of the commission of the violation the motor vehicle was being driven by the person less than 21 years of age with the express or implied consent or knowledge of the owner in violation of subsection (1), and that the use of the motor vehicle is not needed by the owner in the direct pursuit of the owner’s employment or the actual operation of the owner’s business, the court may authorize the impounding of the vehicle for a period of not less than 15 days or more than 30 days. The court’s order authorizing the impounding of the vehicle shall authorize a law enforcement officer to take possession without other process of the motor vehicle wherever located and to store the vehicle in a public or private garage at the expense and risk of the owner of the vehicle. The owner of the vehicle may appeal the order to the circuit court and the provisions governing the taking of appeals from judgments for damages apply to the appeal. This section does not prevent a bona fide lienholder from exercising rights under a lien.
What this means for an MSU Student: After your parent is ordered into court and they can prove that you had either express or implied consent to operate the vehicle, it can be impounded for a minimum of 15 days and up to 30 days. Of course this is a money grab for the storage company and you will have to pay them…not cheap! A parent can show that the vehicle is needed by the owner for their employment, but hard to show when you are tooling around campus with it. It can be appealed to the Circuit court but this would be very expensive and difficult.
(4) A person who knowingly transfers title to a motor vehicle for the purpose of avoiding this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
What this means for an MSU Student: If you are thinking about transferring the title to someone else, think twice as this is actually a crime!
(5) A law enforcement agency, upon determining that a person less than 18 years of age allegedly violated this section, shall notify the parent or parents, custodian, or guardian of the person as to the nature of the violation if the name of a parent, guardian, or custodian is reasonably ascertainable by the law enforcement agency. The notice required by this subsection shall be made not later than 48 hours after the law enforcement agency determines that the person who allegedly violated this section is less than 18 years of age and may be made in person, by telephone, or by first-class mail.
What this means for an MSU student: If you are charged with this crime, they can notify your parents if you are less than 18 years old.