Everyone knows that the legal minimum age for buying or possessing alcohol in Colorado is 21. Everyone also knows that college students in Boulder and throughout the state sometimes drink before their 21st birthday. Underage students caught with alcohol by the police can be charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol, an unclassified petty offense under state law.
The difference between a 1st and 2nd offense
Like most crimes, a second offense can lead to more serious penalties than you might have been sentenced to the first time. A conviction for minor in possession with no prior record results in a fine of up to $100 OR having to attend a substance abuse education program. After a second conviction, the judge must fine you AND send you to a substance abuse program. In addition, you will be sentenced to up to 24 hours of community service, and the judge can decide to make you submit to a substance abuse assessment.
For a third offense, the maximum fine goes up to $250, and you must submit to a substance abuse assessment. The community service maximum also rises to 36 hours.
An alternative to court
These penalties are expensive and disruptive for most college students. Fortunately, the law specifically encourages prosecutors to negotiate a plea deal to send the defendant into a diversion program or deferred sentence. By working with a skilled defense attorney, you may be able to negotiate a reasonable bargain that avoids the more serious penalties. If you complete the terms of the diversion program, the prosecutor will drop the charge.
Of course, it is also possible to get arrested simply because you were at a party where others were drinking. If you or your son or daughter has been falsely charged with minor in possession, you can choose to fight the charge in court.