It's against the law in CO for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, but we all know that it happens frequently. Whether a recent high school graduate wants to illegally celebrate their graduation with a party or an underage college student falls victim to peer pressure, underage drinking is a serious problem in the United States. And just as adult drivers may sometimes drink before they get behind the wheel, so too can underage Coloradans. So what happens when someone is underage and caught driving under the influence? The law spells out the consequences very clearly, but most underage drinkers aren’t well informed.

The First Conviction

Because an underage drinker who makes the poor decision to get behind the wheel when he or she is intoxicated is technically a minor, the law is very forgiving for a first time offender. While the penalties are much harsher for adults of legal drinking age, a minor convicted of UDD (Underage Drinking and Driving) only gets a veritable slap on the wrist. The fines are relatively small, and they can be anywhere between $15 and $100 dollars in Colorado. In addition, the young adult convicted of UDD may be sentenced to a maximum of 24 hours of community service. In fact, the first offense is technically qualified as a Class A traffic infraction. This type of conviction is actually milder than a misdemeanor, as misdemeanors can result in significant jail time. To put things in perspective, a traffic infraction is perceived to be the same level of offense as speeding, failing to obey traffic signs, transporting a passenger with an open container of alcohol, and running red lights.

Further Convictions

The penalties for the first conviction are admittedly very gentle and forgiving in an effort to give the underage party a chance to learn from their mistakes. Though the first offense is classified as an infraction, any repeat offenses qualify as misdemeanors – and the punishments are significantly harsher. Other examples of common misdemeanors include assault, indecent exposure, trespassing, and petty theft. As a misdemeanor, repeat offenses will result in jail time ranging from 10 to 90 days. The fines are also much steeper, and the resulting fines can range from $150 to $300 in Colorado. Also, the offender may still be sentenced to as much as 24 hours of community service.

Last but not least, there are two additional caveats that can affect those who have committed a UDD offense. Though not required for conviction, the underage party could possibly be sentenced to probation. And depending on the unique circumstances of the individual, they could also be required to complete an alcohol abuse program.

Informing Minors

If one of your minors has been convicted of a UDD offense, we strongly urge you to seek help. We also urge you to inform your minor about the consequences of repeat violations, because the consequences can be much more severe than the first offense. When you aren’t sure what to do next, we recommend that you reach out for legal assistance. With over 60 years of combined experience, Rogers & Moss can offer you legal counsel to minimize legal issues and provide you with a brighter future.