For a teenager, having a quick beer at a party may not seem like a big deal. When the police get involved, however, what seemed like just another party often leaves minors saddled with a MIP charge. Most find themselves wondering what happens next.
What is a MIP in Colorado?
An MIP occurs when a law enforcement officer finds a person under the age of 21 to be in possession of alcohol or marijuana. This can also occur when a minor proves themselves to have consumed alcohol or marijuana.
For the purposes of MIP, Colorado law defines a “minor” in CRS 18-13-122 as anyone under the age of 21, rather than anyone under the age of 18.
C.R.S. 18-13-122: Possible Penalties for a Colorado MIP
Some of the penalties for a first offense MIP in Colorado, as outlined by C.R.S. 18-13-122, can include:
A fine of up to $250
Mandatory drug or anger management classes at your expense
Marks on your permanent record
Short-term license suspension
Of course, these consequences can escalate based on your past history with MIPs in Colorado. If this is your second MIP in Colorado, the potential fines you face could increase to $500.
For a third offense and any subsequent offenses, the MIP charge in Colorado becomes a class 2 misdemeanor. If you’ve been charged with 3 or more MIPs in Colorado, in addition to the penalties listed above, consequences could include:
Jail-time or time in a juvenile detention center
Long-term license suspension at the discretion of the Colorado Department of Revenue
If there are DUI or DWAI charges in addition to the MIP charges, the consequences could be far more serious. Additional charges that generally accompany MIPs in Colorado, charges like:
possession of alcohol in public
each carry a $100 fine and could add to the penalties for a Colorado MIP exponentially.
MIP in a Colorado School
If you are still in high school or college, your school may pass out administrative repercussions from your school, especially if the MIP was given by the campus police. Local officers will also often report Colorado MIPs given to university students from their local school. This could include anything from probation to outright expulsion, depending on the school and its tolerance policy.
Marijuana vs. Alcohol
For MIPs in Colorado, the state treats marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia the same as alcohol with regard to penalties. Possession of marijuana does not carry any more severe consequences than possession of alcohol.
Colorado considers a minor to be in possession of marijuana if they are in possession of any amount of marijuana, even if it is less than one ounce. Possession of marijuana paraphernalia includes possession of any equipment, products, or materials of any kind intended for growing, harvesting, or consuming marijuana. Colorado prohibits Marijuana accessories for anyone under the age of 21 include:
Bongs for Marijuana
Bubblers associated with Marijuana
Cigarette rolling papers
The charges for an MIP for marijuana in Colorado carries the same consequences as MIP for alcohol
Marijuana in Denver Schools
However, when it comes to your school, there could be a different story. Despite Colorado legalizing marijuana for recreational use, marijuana-related cases that result in a conviction could make you ineligible for Federal Financial Aid.
Charged With a MIP in Colorado. Now What?
Perhaps the most potentially damaging consequence of being charged with a MIP is that it will go on your record. An experienced defense lawyer can help ensure this MIP charge doesn’t negatively affect your future more than it has to. There are several ways to ensure that your MIP does not impact your chances of future success.
Sealing a Colorado MIP Record
A criminal defense attorney can help you seal the record of your first MIP in Colorado, after you have completed all court-mandated treatment and paid your fines. For a second or any subsequent charges, however, you will need to petition the court no sooner than one year after the violation occurred to have those records sealed. For more information, check out: Do You Qualify to Get Your Colorado Criminal Record Expunged?
Potential Defenses for a MIP in Colorado
There are several viable defenses to MIP in Colorado. These include:
The minor consumes the alcohol on private property
The minor consumed the alcohol in the process of ingesting a substance meant for medical or hygienic purposes, like mouthwash.
The alcohol was consumed under the supervision of an instructor while the minor is pursuing a degree from an accredited culinary school
The minor consumed the alcohol for religious reasons, protected by the First Amendment
If a minor possesses alcohol or marijuana but that minor called 911 to obtain medical assistance for another minor related to the consumption of alcohol or marijuana, Colorado recognizes this minor as being exempt from charges.
So, back to that hypothetical party. If your friend drinks enough alcohol that they fall unconscious and to go to the hospital, you most likely won’t have to worry about dealing with a MIP for calling 911, so long as you are the first one to call 911, you provide your name to the dispatcher, and remain on the scene. This exists so that teenagers will not avoid helping their friends for fear of getting into trouble themselves.
Not Guilty of an MIP in Colorado
If you believe you are not guilty of the MIP charge, you have two options:
Get a new court date to meet with a prosecutor to explain why you believe you are not guilty. After the meeting, you may set your case for trial, or
Set your case for trial without first meeting with a prosecutor. Colorado entitles you to ask for either a judge or jury to decide your case.
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