18-13-122 CRS - "Minor in Possession” of Alcohol or Marijuana in Colorado


18-13-122 CRS
is the Colorado statute that defines the crime of Minor in Possession (MIP). This offense occurs when a person under 21 possesses or consumes alcohol, marijuana, or marijuana paraphernalia. As an unclassified petty offense, MIP carries no jail. Instead, the judge may impose:

  • Fines;
  • 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 criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about the Colorado crime of MIP.

young people with alcohol (18-13-122 C.R.S.)
18-13-122 C.R.S. prohibits people under 21 from possessing or consuming alcohol or marijuana.

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

It is illegal for a person under 21 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. What are the penalties?

MIP is an unclassified petty offense in Colorado that carries no jail time. But it does carry fines and substance abuse treatment or classes:2

 MIP conviction

 Colorado penalties

1st offense

  • $100 in fines and a $25 surcharge; and
  • A drug education class

2nd offense

  • $100 in fines and a $25 surcharge;
  • A drug education class;
  • $25 surcharge;
  • Possibly a substance abuse assessment and treatment; and
  • Up to 24 hours of public service

3rd or subsequent offense

  • $250 in fines and a $25 surcharge;
  • A substance abuse assessment and possibly treatment; and
  • Up to 36 hours of public service

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?

Magnifying glass over paper with the text criminal record.
First-time MIP convictions in Colorado are automatically sealed once the case ends.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. The alcohol was manufactured, designed, or intended for medical, hygienic, or non-oral ingestion purposes.
  3. 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.
  4. The police officer had no probable cause to suspect MIP; or
  5. 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:

  1. Called 911 to report that another minor was sick from alcohol and/or marijuana;
  2. Provided their name to the 911 operator;
  3. Was the first person to call 911 to report the situation;
  4. Stayed on the scene with the victim until medical help arrived; and
  5. Cooperated with the medical professionals and responders or police who arrived on 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 license suspension and up to 24 hours of public service.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 Purchase of alcohol with a fake ID

It is a misdemeanor in Colorado for minors to purchase alcohol with a fake ID. Penalties range from $50 to $750 in fines and a jail sentence of up to six months.8

Receptionists waiting for your call.
Call our Denver criminal defense attorneys at 303-222-0330 for a free consultation.

Call us for help…

If you or your child has been charged with minor in possession here in Colorado, we invite you to contact us for help at the Colorado Legal Defense Group.

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).

Legal References

  1. CRS 18-13-122; CRS 12-47-901; Article XVIII, Section 16: Personal Use and Regulation of Marijuana, Colorado Constitution.
  2. CRS 18-13-122.
  3. CRS 18-13-122; CRS 19-1-103(44).
  4. CRS 18-13-122.
  5. CRS 18-13-122.
  6. People v. O'Donnell, 926 P.2d 114 (Colo. App. 1996); CRS 42-4-1301(2)(d).
  7. CRS 18-9-106.
  8. CRS 42-2-309.

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