As a general rule, it’s illegal for minors under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol. However, there are a few exceptions.
For example, if you give your teen a small glass of wine with your holiday meal this year, this is okay. The caveat is you must be on private property, present with your teen, and have the property owner’s agreement.
Unless consuming alcohol falls under one of the five exceptions for Minor in Possession (MIP) laws, your teen could face any of the serious consequences we detail below.
Colorado Minor in Possession Laws
In most Colorado cases, it’s illegal for a minor under the age of 21 to drink or possess alcoholic beverages. These regulations are covered under Colorado’s Minor In Possession (MIP) statutes.
Although MIP is one of the most common juvenile crimes in Colorado, it could hold serious consequences for your teen — and even for you, when you provide your teen with alcohol.
The criminal penalties for MIP are as follows:
- First Conviction: Fine of $250 and driver’s license suspension for 3 months
- Second Conviction: Fine of $500 and driver’s license suspension for 6 months
- Third Offense-plus: Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, together with 1 year of driver’s license suspension.
Your child could also face additional civil penalties like:
- 24 hours of community service
- Alcohol abuse assessment or evaluation
- Alcohol education or treatment program at yours or your child’s expense
- Penalty surcharge of $25 to adolescent substance abuse and treatment program
It is also not uncommon for Colorado teens to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. This can lead to both MIP charges and the more serious offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
Collateral Consequences of a MIP Conviction in Colorado
Perhaps the most severe consequences of a MIP conviction, or other juvenile crime, are the collateral consequences your teen could face. A MIP can compromise your child’s future in many ways, including:
- Because campus drinking is a problem at many universities, any record of alcohol-related offenses could keep your child out of college.
- Your teen could also become ineligible for financial aid. Due to rising tuition costs, most Colorado families are unable to pay for a college education out-of-pocket.
- A MIP conviction can even hurt your teen’s future employment prospects, particularly for jobs that involve driving or operating heavy machinery.
When Adults Face MIP Charges
Not only will minors in possession or under the influence be held liable, but the adults who provided them with the alcohol, too. There are two common scenarios in which adults who provide unrelated minors with alcohol may face MIP charges, as well.
Selling or Giving Alcoholic Beverages to a Minor in Colorado
Colorado also says it’s illegal to sell, serve, give away or permit the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. These activities are considered a Class 2 misdemeanor offense and carry the following consequences:
- Three months to 1 year in jail
- Fine ranging from $250 to $1,000
Colorado Civil Liability for Social Hosts
If a social host knowingly serves alcohol to someone under 21, he or she could be held civilly liable under the following circumstances:
- The minor causes property damage while intoxicated
- The minor kills or injures another person while intoxicated
While under most circumstances, it’s illegal to give alcohol to your teen, there are still some exceptions to this law. Let’s take a closer look.
The Five Exceptions to Colorado MIP Laws
Despite the quite-severe consequences of MIP and serving alcohol to a minor, there are some circumstances where this is allowed. These are known as affirmative defenses.
- On private property with the consent of a parent or guardian, and in that person’s presence: This means that if you give your teen a small glass of wine for your holiday meal, this is completely fine. It must happen on private property, and both the property owner and the parent or guardian must consent. They must also be present.
- For medical or hygienic purposes: No, your teen won’t get in trouble for using mouthwash. This also applies to confections or baked goods that happen to contain small amounts of alcohol.
- For educational purposes: College students are permitted to taste alcohol for a class in the restaurant industry in the presence of an accredited instructor. However, the student must spit out the alcohol after tasting it.
- For religious purposes: This would include ceremonies, such as Communion wine consumed during mass at a Catholic church. This is protected speech under the First Amendment.
- When reporting another minor in need of medical assistance: If an intoxicated minor makes a phone call to 911, and they remain on the scene until help arrives and cooperate with first responders, they are protected under the Good Samaritan defense.
Yes, you can let your teen have that small glass of wine for a holiday meal. Otherwise, MIP violations carry serious consequences.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.