What is the difference between drug possession and alcohol possession?

In Colorado, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol. Adults 21 years of age and older are permitted to consume and possess alcohol except when the possession of alcohol is forbidden by state law (i.e. open container in a vehicle).

Colorado has legalized marijuana for recreational use; however, Colorado marijuana laws limit the amount of marijuana a person can possess. Colorado residents 21 years or older may legally purchase one ounce of marijuana per transaction. Non-residents 21 years or older may only purchase a quarter of an ounce of marijuana per transaction. However, if you possess more than one ounce of marijuana, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony and face up to three years in prison and fines up to $100,000 depending on the amount and circumstances.

Possession of all other illegal drugs is a crime in Colorado. It is punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type of drug you possess, the amount in your possession, any prior drug convictions, and the circumstances at the time of your arrest. You could face other drug charges, such as trafficking, which carry additional penalties in addition to the drug possession charges. We have more information about drug charges and penalties on our website.

Are penalties more severe if I am found with possession of drugs or alcohol in my vehicle?

Colorado state law prohibits open containers of alcohol or open containers of marijuana in vehicles. It is a crime to have illegal drugs in your vehicle at any time and in any form. According to Colorado’s open container laws, all previously opened containers of alcohol must be stored in the trunk of the vehicle. Passengers in the vehicle are forbidden to have open containers even if the alcohol is not being consumed by anyone in the vehicle.

Exceptions to the open container law exist for motor homes, house trailer, and some commercial vehicles (i.e. taxi); however, it is always best to leave open containers in the trunk to avoid a Class A traffic ticket for violation of the open container law. You may also be charged with DUI if the officer has reason to believe you are impaired by alcohol at the time of the stop.

Having possession of a controlled substance in your vehicle carries a far greater penalty than possession of an open container of alcohol. If you have illegal drugs in your vehicle, you will be charged under Colorado’s drug possession laws with a drug misdemeanor or a drug felony. Penalties include prison and fines. Because you have the drugs on your vehicle, you may also be charged with trafficking drugs, which carries a separate penalty.

What if I am underage?

Underage possession of alcohol is a crime under Colorado’s Illegal Possession or Consumption of Ethyl Alcohol by an Underage Person (C.R.S. §18-13-122). If you are a minor under the age of 21 and you consume, possess, or are in the immediate presence of alcohol, you can be charged with a crime. A conviction may result in your driver’s license being suspended, mandatory attendance in a court-ordered assessment program, community service, a night in jail, and court fines.

If you are in possession of an illegal substance, you can be charged with possession of a drug as a minor or as an adult depending on the circumstances. You could face the same jail time, fines, probation, and other penalties as an adult for the same crime. Even though Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use, minors under the age of 21 can still be charged with a drug crime for possession of any amount of cannabis or marijuana paraphernalia.

A conviction of illegal possession of drugs or alcohol by a minor can follow you for the rest of your life and have negative consequences on your ability to attend the college of your choice or pursue your choice of career. If you are in college, you can also expect additional disciplinary action by the university.

Have you been charged with alcohol or drug possession in Colorado?

We want to help! Possession of drugs and/or alcohol can seriously affect your ability to work and live where you desire. A criminal record follows you for the rest of your life. If you are facing a drug charge or alcohol charge in Greenwood Village or throughout Colorado, contact the Law Office of Andres R. Guevara for a free consultation by calling (720) 408-2877 or visiting us online.