Colorado Alcohol Laws & Rocky Mountain Highs:Learn the Laws

This page will help you understand Colorado alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and legal costs.

Colorado alcohol laws cover its residents. They also cover its visitors. Visitors should also know that laws vary from state to state. Also within states.


I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  Other Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV.  Get Good Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

Some young people seek part-time jobs. Many of these are in hospitality. Some involve alcohol. What ages must one be to hold them? What age to tend bar? To serve alcohol in a restaurant? Or to sell alcohol for off-site drinking?

Colorado alcohol laws permit adults age 18 or older to serve alcohol or tend bar. Someone at least 21 years of age must supervise them. The laws require sellers of alcohol to be at least age 21. However, adults 18 or older may sell 3.2% alcohol beer in stores for drinking elsewhere.

Persons of any age under 21 may drink on private property. But a parent or guardian must be present. The location can be on any private property. The owner must consent.

Many parents do this to demistify alcohol and promote moderate drinking. They think it’s better to learn about drinking in parents’ house instead of a frat house. They appear to be right.

Using a false ID to buy alcohol is a crime. It is also a crime to give, lend, or sell a false ID.

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02

II. Other Colorado Alcohol Laws

A. Selling Alcohol

Venders with alcohol licenses may sell 3.2% alcohol beer from 5:00 a.m. until midnight. And they may do so 365 days a year.

Some businesses have a license to sell alcohol for drinking on-site. For instance, restaurants, taverns, and brew pubs. They may sell from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m., 365 days a year.

Some businesses have a license to sell alcohol for drinking elsewhere. That is, off-site. For example, liquor stores and drug stores. They may sell from 8:00 a.m.until midnight every day except Christmas.

It’s a violation of Colorado alcohol laws to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21. A person may hold a business liable if it does so and the person then causes injury to someone else. The same is also true if they sell alcohol to a person visibly intoxicated.

B. Buying Alcohol

colorado alcohol lawsPeople under the age of 21 may enter or remain in a licensed business. But they may not buy alcohol.

Colorado alcohol laws prohibit public consumption of beer that’s over 3.2% alcohol, wine, or distilled spirits (liquor). But some counties and towns prohibit the public drinking of 3.2% beer. They do this through local option.

Colorado does not consider businesses with an alcohol license to be public for the purposes of this law.

People may not bring their own alcohol into any place with a license to sell alcohol. Nor may they bring it into a place with no license. For example, into a restaurant that has no alcohol license.

C. Driving and Alcohol

It’s a violation of Colorado alcohol laws to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%. It’s driving while ability impaired (DWAI). Driving under the influence (DUI) is driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

And for drivers under the age of 21, the limit is 0.02%.


The penalty for a first DWAI offense is up to 180 days in jail. The state adds eight points to the driving record. The fine is $200 to $500. There’s also up to 48 hours of community service.

For a first DUI conviction, the penalty is up to one year in jail. The driving license suspension is for nine months. There’s also a required alcohol education course. The fine is $600 to $1,000. And there’s up to 96 hours of community service.

If a driver under 21 has a DWAI or DUI, the penalty is a license suspension for three months. In addition, the state adds four points to the driving record.

Penalties also increase greatly for added offenses. It depends on the facts and the judge. Some offenders have to have ignition interlock devices (IID) installed. These prevent the vehicle from starting if there’s alcohol on the driver’s breath. Of course, that’s expensive for the offender.

Drivers under 21 convicted for having alcohol in their vehicle have their licenses revoked.

Driver Rights

The U.S. Constitution grants drivers the right to refuse a chemical BAC test. But the state punishes those who use their right. To do so, it suspends their driving license and labels them “Persistent Drunk Drivers.”

Persistent Drunk Drivers are usually people who offend with very high BACs. Or they are repeatedly drunken drivers. Before the state will will reinstate their licenses they must do two things. One is to complete an alcohol and drug education and treatment program. The other is that they must pay for a vehicle IID for at least two years.

Field Sobriety Test

Colorado alcohol lawsHowever, these punishments do not apply for refusing to take a field sobriety test. These are not reliable. Indeed, 30% of completely sober people fail them. Thus, about one of three people with zero BAC (0.00%) fail them! And they fail under ideal indoor conditions.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers not to take them. Police often falsely say the law requires it. It doesn’t. Or they say taking it proves you’re innocent. But that’s backward. It’s the state that has to prove you’re guilty! Police may make promises, threats, or become angry. That’s because you won’t give them the evidence they need.

While investigating, police can legally lie. So don’t fall for it. Lawyers say to remain calm and politely refuse. And to do so as often as needed.

Learn more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

D. Boating and Alcohol

colorado alcohol lawsIt’s not illegal to have alcohol on a boat. But Colorado alcohol laws prohibit anyone from boating under the influence (BUI).

“Boating” includes operating any motor boat, sail boat, and paddle craft. Also riding water skis, aquaplanes, or similar devices.

People are in violation of the law if they

Have a BAC of 0.08 or higher.


Are under the influence of alcohol.


Have any controlled substance and/or other drug making them incapable of operating safely.

Of course, it’s the arresting officer who judges incapacity. And that’s subjective.

The penalty for BUI depends on the facts and the judge. For a first offense it’s jail for five days to 180 days. A fine of $100 to $1,000. Also a suspension of the operator’s license for three months.

The boater may legally refuse to take a BAC breath test. But the state may use that fact in court. It may argue that the refusal is proof of guilt.

III. Resources on Colorado Alcohol Laws

IV. Get Good Advice

Colorado alcohol laws can change. Their interpretation can change. They can conflict. Law is in flux. Lawyers study it for years. This isn’t a DIY matter. Do not rely on this site. Nor any other.

And beware. Friends may give advice. Kin may give opinions. Neighbors may give stories. Smile and thank them. Then ignore what they say. That’s because it’s worth about what you paid for it. That is, nothing.

Get facts or advice about Colorado alcohol laws from an expert. That is, a lawyer with a license in the state.


So now you know more about Colorado alcohol laws than most residents of the state. Kudos!