Minor in Possession of Alcohol or Marijuana

Minor in Possession (MIP) of alcohol or marijuana is a charge for underage persons who possess either alcohol or marijuana. In Colorado, the statute (or law) that prohibits minors from possessing or consuming alcohol is titled “Illegal possession or consumption of ethyl alcohol or marijuana by an underage person–illegal possession of marijuana paraphernalia by an underage person . . . .” [1] But most people just refer to it as MIP.

The MIP statute in Colorado prohibits 1) underage possession or consumption of alcohol, 2) underage possession or consumption of marijuana, and 3) underage possession of marijuana paraphernalia. “Underage” simply means a person under 21 years old.

Minor in Possession is an “unclassified petty offense.” That means that, in terms of severity, it is less serious than a misdemeanor. The statute outlines the punishment for committing this offense. The punishments are the same whether a person is convicted of possession/consumption of alcohol or of marijuana. The seriousness of the punishment is based on the number of convictions in a person’s lifetime.  The more times a person has committed the offense, the worse the punishments are.

First Offense[2]

For a first offense, the court must sentence the underage person to a fine, or sentence the person to complete a substance abuse program, or both.

Second Offense[3]

For a second offense, the court must sentence the underage person to a fine of not more than $100 and must order the person to 1) complete a substance abuse program, and 2) if necessary, submit to a substance abuse assessment and complete any recommended treatment, and 3) perform 24 hours of community service.

Third Offense[4]

For a third offense, the court must sentence the underage person to a fine of not more than $250 and must order the person to 1) submit to a substance abuse assessment and complete any recommended treatment and 2) perform 36 hours of community service.

The statute encourages prosecutors to enter into diversion agreements with underage persons.[5] In a diversion agreement, no conviction is entered. Instead, the accused person simply completes the required punishment and upon successful completion, the charge is dismissed.

In addition, the statute lays out several “affirmative defenses.” An affirmative defense means that the conduct may be legal if it happens under particular circumstances. Those circumstances can include the consumption of alcohol on private property with the consent of the underage person’s parents and the owner of the property.[6] It can also include situations where the alcohol was possessed for school purposes.

If you have been charged with being a Minor in Possession, there may be defenses available to you. You may also be able to work with the District Attorney’s Office to receive a diversion agreement. Ultimately, you will need the help and advice of an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney. Call one of the experienced criminal defense attorneys at CGH for a free consultation!

[1] C.R.S. § 18-13-122.

[2] Id. (4)(a).

[3] Id. (4)(b).

[4] Id. (4)(c).

[5] Id. (4)(d).

[6] Id. (5)(a).