Colorado alcohol laws cover its residents. They also cover its visitors. Visitors should know that laws vary from state to state. Also within states.
I. Minimum Age Laws
II. More Alcohol Laws
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 consumption?
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 off-premises.
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.
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. More Colorado Alcohol Laws
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 consumption on their premises. For example, 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 consumption elsewhere. That is, off their premises. 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 suffering intoxication.
Colorado alcohol laws prohibit public consumption of beer that’s over 3.2% alcohol, wine, or distilled spirits. Spirits are vodka, bourbon, gin, rum, tequila, etc. However, some counties and localities prohibit the public consumption of 3.2% beer.
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.
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 of imprisonment. 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 imprisonment. 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. Depending on the circumstances and the judge, some offenders have to have ignition interlock devices. 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.
The U.S. Constitution grants drivers the right to refuse a chemical BAC test. Nevertheless, 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 ignition interlock device for at least two years.
However, these punishments do not apply for refusing to take a field sobriety test. These tests very unreliable. Indeed, 30% of completely sober people fail them. Thus, about one of three people with zero BAC (0.00%) fail them!
Lawyers strongly urge drivers not to take them. Police often falsely say the law requires it. Of course, it doesn’t. They may make promises, threats, or become angry.
While investigating, police can legally lie. So don’t be a sucker. Lawyers say to remain calm and politely refuse. And to do so as often as necessary. So take lawyers’ advice.
Learn more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.
Boating and Alcohol
“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 blood or breath alcohol concentration (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 circumstances 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 state may argue in court that using the right to refuse a BAC test is proof of guilt.
III. Resources on Colorado Alcohol Laws
- State Code
- Legislative Information
- Attorney General Opinions
- Liquor Enforcement Laws, Rules, Regulations
- Liquor Enforcement
- Colorado Bar Association
IV. Get Good Advice
Colorado alcohol laws can change. They can in any state. Their interpretation can change. They can conflict. Law is in flux. Lawyers study it for years. Do not rely on this site. Nor on any other site.
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 information or advice about Colorado alcohol laws from an expert. That is, a lawyer with a license in the state.