Colorado’s Minor in Possession law (found in 18-13-122 CRS) prohibits minors under the age of 21 from possessing or consuming alcohol or marijuana, or from using marijuana paraphernalia. As an unclassified petty offense, MIP carries no jail.
Instead, the judge may impose:
- Public service; and
- Substance abuse assessment and treatment
However, defendants can often get MIP charges dismissed by completing a diversion program or entering a deferred judgment.
Below our Denver Colorado criminal defense attorneys answer frequently asked questions about the Colorado crime of MIP.
- 1. What does Minor in Possession (MIP) mean?
- 2. Is MIP a misdemeanor in Colorado?
- 3. Can a MIP charge be dismissed?
- 4. Can the record be sealed?
- 5. What are the defenses?
- 6. Related offenses
1. What does Minor in Possession (MIP) mean?
It is illegal for a person under twenty-one (21) years of age in Colorado to possess or consume:
- Ethyl alcohol (which includes most alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, or liquor),
- Marijuana, or
- Drug paraphernalia
MIP is a strict liability offense. This means that prosecutors do not need to prove what the defendant’s intent or mental state was at the time of the possession.
That said, minor possession of marijuana paraphernalia is illegal only when the defendant knows it could be used to consume pot. Paraphernalia includes items specific to marijuana such as bongs or roaches. Paraphernalia also includes everyday items such as bowls or tin foil.1
2. Is MIP a misdemeanor in Colorado?
No. An MIP charge is not a misdemeanor. Rather, it is an unclassified petty offense under Colorado law that carries no jail time. But it does carry fines and substance abuse treatment or classes:2
|First conviction|| |
|Second conviction|| |
|Third of subsequent offense|| |
3. Can a MIP charge be dismissed?
Possibly, if the defendant participates in a diversion program or deferred judgment.
Diversion is a program offered to a minor in place of criminal action being taken against the minor. This type of program removes the minor from prosecution before he/she must plead guilty or no contest. So long as the minor completes the terms of the diversion program, the minor will not be prosecuted and face the potential of a criminal record.
Deferred judgment occurs when the minor pleads guilty or no contest, and the court does not enter a judgment of guilt. Instead, the minor participates in court-ordered programs. If the minor successfully abides by all the terms and conditions of the program, a judgment will not be entered. Therefore, the case will get dismissed.3
4. Can the record be sealed?
Yes. A first-time MIP conviction is automatically sealed as soon as the case ends in Colorado.
But a second or subsequent MIP conviction must stay on the defendant’s record for one year. Then once the year is over, the defendant has to ask the court to seal the record — the seal is not automatic.4
Learn about how to get a Colorado criminal record seal.
5. What are the defenses?
Five possible defenses to Colorado MIP charges include the following:
- The defendant was on private property legally. And his/her parent or legal guardian was present and consented to the possession or consumption of alcohol.
- The alcohol was manufactured, designed, or intended for medical, hygienic, or non-oral ingestion purposes.
- The defendant was a student at a cooking, food service, or restaurant management degree program. And he/she tastes alcohol under the supervision of an instructor.
- Law enforcement error, such as if the police officer had no probable cause to suspect MIP; or
- The defendant possessed or consumed alcohol or marijuana for religious purposes protected by the First Amendment.
Note that minors may be immune to a MIP prosecution if they:
- Called 911 to report that another minor was sick from alcohol and/or marijuana;
- Provided their name to the 911 operator;
- Was the first person to call 911 to report the situation;
- Stayed on the scene with the victim until medical help arrived; and
- Cooperated with the medical professionals and responders or police who arrived on the scene.5
6. Related Offenses
6.1 Underage DUI
Underage DUI is a criminal offense where a person under the age of 21 drives with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level between 0.02% and 0.05%. It is also known as Colorado’s zero-tolerance law. A first offense carries a three-month driver’s license suspension by the Department of Revenue and up to 24 hours of public community service as well as an alcohol education course. (Note that it may be possible to contest license revocations for underage drinking and driving at a DMV hearing.)6
6.2 Disorderly conduct
Disorderly conduct is “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” breaching the peace. An example is being unreasonably noisy in public. Disorderly conduct can be either a petty offense or a misdemeanor.7
6.3 Furnishing alcohol to a minor
It is a misdemeanor in Colorado to sell or give alcohol to people under 21.8
Call us for help…
If you or your child has been charged with minor in possession here in Colorado, we invite you to contact our law firm for help at the Colorado Legal Defense Group. We defend clients throughout the state of Colorado, including Denver, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and more.
In California? See our article on Minor in Possession of Alcohol (Business and Professions Code 25662).
In Nevada? See our article on Underage Possession of Alcohol (NRS 202.020).
- Colorado Revised Statute 18-13-122; CRS 12-47-901; Article XVIII, Section 16: Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana, Colorado Constitution.
- CRS 18-13-122.
- CRS 18-13-122; CRS 19-1-103(44).
- CRS 18-13-122.
- CRS 18-13-122.
- People v. O’Donnell, 926 P.2d 114 (Colo. App. 1996); CRS 42-4-1301(2)(d).
- CRS 18-9-106.
- CRS 42-3-309.