Colorado “Minor in Possession” of Alcohol or Marijuana
(Colorado 18-13-122 C.R.S.)

Minor in Possession (MIP) is defined and outlined in 18-13-122 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. It occurs when a person under the age of 21 possesses or consumes ethyl alcohol or marijuana or possesses marijuana paraphernalia anywhere in the State of Colorado.

Penalties for a MIP Conviction

A minor in possession offense is an unclassified petty offense. As such, the penalties may include but will vary depending on whether or not it is a first-, second-, or third-offense:

  • a fine of up to $250 depending on the any subsequent convictions;
  • a court order to participate in a Division of Behavioral (DBH) approved substance abuse education program;
  • a court order to submit to a DBH approved assessment and to participate in treatment according to the recommendations of the assessment;
  • public service; and
  • an additional penalty surcharge of $25.00.

Alternatives to an MIP Conviction

There are alternatives to a MIP conviction when it is in the interests of justice and in accordance with the statute. Alternatives to a conviction include:

  • Diversion, which is offered before criminal prosecution; or
  • Deferred adjudication, which is offered after a plea of guilty or nolo contendere.

Record Sealing

A minor's MIP record will be automatically sealed upon a first offense after successful completion of court ordered treatment, fines, or successful completion of the terms and conditions of a diversion program or deferred adjudication. Upon a second or subsequent MIP offense, an offender must petition the court no sooner than one year from the date of the violation for his or her record to be sealed.

Defenses to a Minor in Possession

There are defenses to a MIP charge in Colorado. Most notably, the statute provides for affirmative defenses when the minor is:

  • On private property and drinks alcohol with the knowledge and consent of the owner or possessor of the property and the minor's present parent or legal guardian; or
  • Taking an item, either orally or topically, that contains alcohol but is meant for medical or hygienic purposes; or
  • Pursuing a degree from an accredited culinary school or like institution and the minor tastes the alcohol (but does not imbibe) under the supervision of an instructor for the purpose of instruction during a class.

The MIP statute also provides for defenses when the minor consumes alcohol or marijuana for religious practices or when an officer enters private property to investigates but does so without probable cause.

In addition to defenses, a minor may be immune to criminal prosecution when the minor calls 911 to report on another minor in need of medical assistance due to alcohol or marijuana and the minor reporting the incident was the first to report it, provided his or her name to the 911 operator, and stayed on the scene until help arrived and cooperated with the medical personnel or law enforcement agents on the scene.

Related Offenses

There are many offenses that are related to a minor in possession offense. These include:

A minor in possession is an offense that should not be taken lightly. At Colorado Legal Defense Group, our criminal defense attorneys want minors and their parents or legal guardians to be aware of the risks and to make informed decisions. We have provided answers to your most common questions related to this offense. If you still have questions, contact our office to learn more.

Marijuana2 optimized
Minor in Possession (MIP) is defined and outlined in 18-13-122 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

1. What does the Colorado offense Minor in Possession (MIP) mean?

CRS 18-13-122 is the section of Colorado's criminal code that outlines what the offense commonly known as minor in possession means. Under CRS 18-13-122, it is illegal for a minor to possess or consume anywhere in the state of Colorado either:

  • ethyl alcohol
  • marijuana, or
  • drug paraphernalia.1

The possession of ethyl alcohol, marijuana, and/or drug paraphernalia in Colorado by a minor is a strict liability offense. A strict liability offense requires no mental culpability. As such, if charged with this offense because you allegedly possessed or consumed ethyl alcohol or marijuana or possessed drug paraphernalia, the State does not need to prove what your intent or mental state was at the time of your possession.

That said, with regard to possession of marijuana paraphernalia by a minor in Colorado, the illegal act of possessing it is only committed when the minor

knows or reasonably should know that the drug paraphernalia could be used in circumstances in violation of the laws of Colorado.

In this case, the minor must have knowledge that the items in possession could be used for the purpose of marijuana consumption in order for a conviction to stick. Thus, the State must prove the minor knew the items could be used for marijuana consumption, but the State does not need to prove that the minor intended to use the items for that purpose.

1.1 Who is considered a minor for the purpose of this law?

According to Colorado law, persons consuming or in possession of alcohol in the state of Colorado must be at least 21 years of age.2 CRS 18-13-122 reiterates that an underage person -- or minor -- for the purpose of CRS 18-13-122 is a person who is under the age of 21.

1.2 What does ethyl alcohol mean?

The criminal code defines ethyl alcohol as “any substance which is or contains ethyl alcohol.”3 This includes almost any alcoholic beverage, like:

  • Wine;
  • Beer, including cider; and
  • Distilled spirits, like vodka, baijiu, rum, gin, whiskey, brandy, among others.

1.3 How much marijuana constitutes an offense under this law?

Any amount of marijuana, including one ounce or less, in a minor's possession constitutes a violation of this code.4

1.4 What is marijuana paraphernalia?

Marijuana paraphernalia is defined under CRS 18-13-122(2)(d) as having the

the same meaning as marijuana accessories in section 16 (2)(g) of article XVIII of the Colorado constitution.5

Section 16(2)(g) of article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution states marijuana accessories are

  • any equipment,
  • products, or
  • materials of any kind

that are used, intended for use, or designed for use in

  • planting,
  • propagating,
  • cultivating,
  • growing,
  • harvesting,
  • composting,
  • manufacturing,
  • compounding,
  • converting,
  • producing,
  • processing,
  • preparing,
  • testing,
  • analyzing,
  • packaging,
  • repackaging,
  • storing,
  • vaporizing, or
  • containing marijuana, or

that are used, intended for use, or designed for use for

  • ingesting,
  • inhaling, or otherwise
  • introducing marijuana into the human body.6

Paraphernalia includes items specific to marijuana and the above named purposes as well as other items that have use for everyday purposes.

Paraphernalia Specific to Marijuana

  • Marijuana dab rig, a bong like apparatus used to smoke hash oil, wax, or hash
  • Vaporizers or vape pens, the latter is a smaller, portable version of the former
  • Marijuana grinder, special device to break up marijuana flowers and stems
  • Marijuana bubbler, a pipe and bong as one unit
  • Marijuana bong, a pipe for smoking marijuana
  • Roach clips
  • Chillums
  • Cigarette paper

Paraphernalia General to Marijuana & Everyday Use

  • Bowls
  • Small glass, ceramic, or plastic ware
  • Miniature spoons
  • Tin foil
  • Straws or paper tubes
  • Pill bottles
  • Plastic baggies

2. What are the penalties for a conviction of Minor in Possession in Colorado?

A minor in possession is an unclassified petty offense. This classification dictates the penalties that a person convicted of a minor in possession may face. You will not face jail time, but can anticipate fines and court-ordered substance abuse treatment or classes.

2.1 What are the penalties for a first MIP offense?

For a first offense MIP conviction, you can expect the following as a means of potential punishment or rather rehabilitation:

  • a fine of up to $100, and/or
  • court order to participate in a Division of Behavioral (DBH) approved substance abuse education program;7 and
  • an additional penalty surcharge of $25.00, that goes to the adolescent substance abuse prevention and treatment fund -- but you can get out of paying this surcharge if you can show to the court you are indigent, i.e., cannot afford the surcharge.8

2.2 What are the penalties for a second MIP offense?

For a second offense MIP conviction, you can expect the following as a means of potential punishment or rather rehabilitation:

  • a fine of up to $100; and
  • court order to participate in a DBH-approved substance abuse education program; and -- if deemed necessary and appropriate,
  • court order to participate in a DBH-approved substance abuse assessment and to complete treatment recommended by that assessment, and
  • public service subject to CRS 18-1.3-507 of up to 24 hours;9 and
  • an additional penalty surcharge of $25.00, that goes to the adolescent substance abuse prevention and treatment fund -- but you can get out of paying this surcharge if you can show to the court you are indigent, i.e., cannot afford the surcharge.

2.3 What are the penalties for a third MIP offense?

For a third offense MIP conviction, you can expect the following as a means of potential punishment or rather rehabilitation:

  • a fine of up to $250; and
  • court order to participate in a DBH-approved substance abuse assessment and to complete treatment recommended by the assessment; and
  • public service subject to CRS 18-1.3-507 of up to 36 hours;10 and
  • an additional penalty surcharge of $25.00, that goes to the adolescent substance abuse prevention and treatment fund -- but you can get out of paying this surcharge if you can show to the court you are indigent, i.e., cannot afford the surcharge.

3. Are there any alternatives to a MIP conviction in Colorado?

In Colorado, if you have been charged with a minor in possession offense, there are alternatives to convictions. The statute states the prosecutor can enter into a diversion or deferred judgment agreement with you so long as the agreement serves the interests of justice and is consistent with this section of the criminal code's declaration that:

it is necessary for the state of Colorado to educate Colorado youth about the dangers of early use of alcohol and marijuana, to actively promote programs that prevent the illegal use of alcohol and marijuana, and to teach Colorado youth about responsible use and the healthy choices available to an adult once he or she is able to legally consume alcohol or marijuana.11

Diversion is a program offered to a minor to participate in “individually designed services provided by a specific program” in place of criminal action being taken against the minor.12 This type of program removes the minor from prosecution before he or she must plead guilty or nolo contendere. 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 nolo contendere, and at that time, the court does not enter a judgment of guilt. In place of entering a judgment of guilt, the minor participates in court-ordered programs. If the minor successfully abides by all the terms and conditions of the program throughout its duration, a judgment will not be entered and the minor does not end up with a criminal record.

4. How long does a conviction of Minor in Possession stay on your record in Colorado?

How long a minor in possession stays on your record in Colorado is dependent on if it is your first or subsequent offense. In either case, the minor's record is sealed so it will not show up as part of the minor's criminal history or as a result of a background check.

4.1 When is a first-offense MIP sealed?

For a first-offense minor in possession, a court will automatically and immediately order a minor's case sealed upon dismissal of a case when:

  • The minor has completed deferred judgment; or
  • The minor has completed diversion; or
  • The minor has completed court-ordered substance abuse education; and
  • The minor has made payment of any fine for a first conviction.13

4.2 When is a second-offense MIP sealed?

If it is a minor's second or subsequent minor in possession offense, then the record will not be sealed immediately. The minor must wait for one year from the date of the second or subsequent MIP conviction before requesting an order to seal the record of the second or subsequent conviction. To note, for second or subsequent MIP offenses, the offender must petition the court for his or her record to be sealed; it is not automatic.14

5. Are there any defenses in Colorado to a charge of Minor in Possession?

There are defenses in Colorado to a charge of minor in possession. In addition to defenses, there are circumstances when a minor will be immune from criminal prosecution.

5.1 What are defenses to a MIP charge?

The statute lists three circumstances where a minor may have an affirmative defense to a MIP. These three circumstances are:

  • When a minor is on private property legally -- meaning the owner knows and consents to the minor's presence on the property -- and the parent or legal guardian of the minor is present and consents to the possession or consumption of ethyl alcohol.15
  • When a minor consumes a product containing ethyl alcohol and that product was manufactured, designed, or intended for medical (e.g., cold medicine) or hygienic purposes (e.g., mouthwash) or non-oral ingestion purposes.16
  • When the minor is a student at an accredited or certified culinary arts, food service, or restaurant management degree program and tastes an alcoholic beverage (but does not imbibe) under the supervision of an instructor (aged 21 or older) for instructional purposes.17

There are two additional defenses you may have even if the above circumstances do not apply:

  1. If the police officer entered upon private property to investigate a violation pertinent to a minor in possession but did so without having the requisite probable cause;18 or
  2. If the minor possessed or consumed ethyl alcohol or marijuana for religious purposes protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.19

5.2 What are reasons a minor is immune to a MIP charge?

A minor may be immune to criminal prosecution for a minor in possession offense when he or she can establish he or she:

  1. called 911 in good faith to report that another minor was in need of medical help due to the consumption of ethyl alcohol and/or marijuana;
  2. provided his or her name to the 911 operator;
  3. was the first person to call 911 to report the situation;
  4. stayed on the scene with the minor who was in need of medical help until medical help arrived; and
  5. Cooperated with the medical professionals and responders or police who arrived on the scene.20

6. Related Offenses

When a person violates the criminal code, like the minor in possession offense, that violation does not supersede the provisions of the liquor code. If a person violates the liquor code, he or she must be prosecuted for those violations accordingly.21

Apart from the liquor code, there are other criminal offenses that are also related to a minor in possession offense. These include offenses like underage DUI, disorderly conduct, and purchase of alcohol by a minor.

6.1 What is the offense of 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 conviction could mean:

  • driver license suspension
  • driving record points
  • public service
  • alcohol and/or drug evaluations, assessment, and treatment classes
  • fines up to $300, depending on any prior offenses and the circumstances of the DUI, and/or
  • jail between 10 to 90 days for a second or subsequent offense.22

6.2 What is the offense of disorderly conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a Colorado offense where the alleged offender “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” commits one of the following acts in a public place:

  • Makes offensive utterances, gestures, or displays to incite an immediate breach of the peace;
  • Makes unreasonable noise;
  • Fights with another person unless in an amateur or professional contest of athletic skill;
  • Discharges a firearm (with a few exceptions) but is not a peace officer; or
  • Displays a deadly weapon but is not a peace officer and does so in a manner to cause alarm;
  • Fashions an item in a manner to cause another person to reasonably believe it is a deadly weapon but is not a peace officer and does so in a manner to cause alarm; or
  • Represents verbally that he or she is armed with a deadly weapon but is not a peace officer and does so in manner to cause alarm.23

The penalties for a conviction of disorderly conduct depends on the classification of the crime -- from petty offense to Class 2 misdemeanor. But in any of these cases, a convicted person can expect fines up to $750 and jail time up to 12 months.

6.3 What is the offense of purchase of alcohol by a minor?

A minor cannot purchase alcohol legally in Colorado but he or she may try to do so by using a false ID. If that is the case, then a minor can be charged with unlawful acts with a false ID. This offense is a Class 3 misdemeanor and can result in fines between $50 and $750 and jail of up to 6 months.24

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Call us for help…

If you were charged for possessing or consuming alcohol or marijuana as a minor, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with a minor in possession offense and related offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.


Legal References

  1. CRS 18-13-122. Illegal possession or consumption of ethyl alcohol or marijuana by an underage person - illegal possession of marijuana paraphernalia by an underage person - definitions - adolescent substance abuse prevention and treatment fund - legislative declaration.
  2. CRS 12-47-901. Unlawful acts - exceptions - definitions.
  3. CRS 18-13-122(2)(b).
  4. CRS 18-13-122(3)(b).
  5. CRS 18-13-122(2)(d).
  6. Article XVIII, Section 16: Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana, Colorado Constitution.
  7. CRS 18-13-122(4)(a).
  8. CRS 18-13-122(4)(e).
  9. CRS 18-13-122(4)(b).
  10. CRS 18-13-122(4)(c).
  11. CRS 18-13-122(1)(a).
  12. CRS 19-1-103(44). Definitions.
  13. CRS 18-13-122(13)(a).
  14. CRS 18-13-122(13)(b).
  15. CRS 18-13-122(5)(a).
  16. CRS 18-13-122(5)(b).
  17. CRS 18-13-122(5)(c).
  18. CRS 18-13-122(17).
  19. CRS 18-13-122(6).
  20. CRS 18-13-122(7).
  21. People v. O'Donnell, 926 P.2d 114 (Colo. App. 1996).
  22. CRS 42-4-1301(2)(d). Driving under the influence - driving while impaired - driving with excessive alcoholic content - definitions - penalties.
  23. CRS 18-9-106. Disorderly conduct.
  24. CRS 42-2-309. Unlawful acts.

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