In Colorado, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 years to possess or consume alcohol with a few exceptions. Penalties include drivers license suspension, community service, alcohol evaluation and treatment. Providing alcohol to a person under 18 is a felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Providing alcohol to a person 18-20 is a misdemeanor.
As an experienced Boulder criminal defense lawyer, I can help make sure you, or your child, fully understands the process and options, gets the best offer possible, and knows how to complete the conditions without trouble. After the case is complete, I can help seal the record from public view. In my many years in Boulder, Colorado, I have helped numerous students through the maze of the criminal justice system, avoiding lifelong criminal records, and minimizing the affect an arrest has on graduate school, internship and job applications. The case does not end when a person accepts a plea bargain. That is often just the beginning.
In many jurisdictions, including Boulder, a person charged with MIP can get a deferred prosecution or deferred judgement and sentence. These offers allow a person to avoid conviction. If the program is successfully completed, the arrest and court records can be sealed from public view.
Many Colleges and Universities, including the University of Colorado - Boulder, will impose punishment through their student conduct code. The penalties include alcohol classes, probation, suspension and even expulsion. The harsher penalties are typically only given after more than one code violation. The student code can be violated even when the offense happens off campus or during summer break.
The statute can be found at Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) §18-13-122 - Illegal Possession or Consumption of Ethyl Alcohol by an Underage Person. This statute makes possession or consumption a strict liability offense.
There are affirmative defenses to the charge:
- underage person legally on private property, with consent of property owner, consuming or possessing with consent of parent/guardian who is present.
- alcohol consumed was in a baked good in an amount limited by law or was in a medicine or less that 1% alcohol by weight.
- tasted but not imbibed by a student supervised by instructor in a culinary arts or restaurant program in a required course.
It is not illegal if consumed for religious purposes protected by the United States Constitution.
An underage person shall be immune from prosecution if:
- s/he called 911 and reported in good faith that another underage person was in need of medical help for alcohol consumption
- s/he provides his/her name to the 911 operator
- s/he was the first to make the 911 report
- s/he remains on scene with the person needing assistance and cooperates with medical or law enforcement.
Even if you are guilty, there is a reason to have an experienced criminal defense attorney. The right lawyer can help you fully analyze your trial rights or help make sure you complete your plea agreement without trouble. My clients often tell me they are very happy to have hired me to make sure things go smoothly and that all their questions are answered. It is far easier to do this right from the start than to try to undo a mistake after a plea. Call me to discuss representation.