Colorado Alcohol Laws & Rocky Mountain Highs

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

I. Minimum Age Laws


I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice

Some young people seek part-time jobs. Many of these are in hospitality. Some involve alcohol. Youths need to know what age is needed to hold them.  What age is needed to tend bar? To serve alcohol in a restaurant? 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 tears 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.

colorado alcohol lawsPersons of any age under 21 may drink on private property. 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. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

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

Some businesses are licensed to sell alcohol to be consumed on their premises. Examples are restaurants, taverns, and brew pubs. They may sell from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m., 365 days a year.

Some businesses are licensed 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. Businesses may be held liable if they do so if the person then causes injury to someone else. The same is true if they sell alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.

Purchasing Alcohol

colorado alcohol lawsPeople under the age of 21 may enter or remaining in a licensed business. However, they may not buy alcohol.

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 licensed businesses to be public for the purposes of this law.

People may not bring their own alcohol into any place that’s licensed to sell alcohol. Nor may they bring into an unlicensed place. For example, into a restaurant that’s not licensed.

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.

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. Eight points are added to the driving record. The fine is $200 to $500. There’s up to 48 hours of community service.

colorado alcohol lawsFor a first DUI conviction, the penalty is up to one year imprisonment. The driving license suspension is for nine months. There’s 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, four points are added to the driving record.

Penalties increase greatly for repeated 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.

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

Driver Rights

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants drivers the right to refuse a chemical BAC test. However, the state punishes those who use their right. It suspends their driving license and labels them “Persistent Drunk Drivers.”

Persistent Drunk Drivers are usually people who offend with very high BACs or who are repeatedly drunk drivers. Before they can get their licenses reinstated 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.

colorado alcohol lawsHowever, these punishments do not apply for refusing to take a field sobriety test. These assessments are highly subjective and very unreliable. Indeed, about one-third of people with a BAC of 0.00 fail to pass them.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers not to take them. They say to politely but consistently refuse. The officer may falsely argue that  that the law requires it. The law does not. The officer may make promises, make threats, or become angry. Lawyers say to remain calm and politely refuse.

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

Boating and Alcohol

colorado alcohol lawsIt’s not illegal to have alcohol on a boat. However, 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 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.

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

The state argues in court that using the right to refuse a BAC test is proof of guilt.

III. Resources on Colorado Alcohol Laws


IV. Seek 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. Or 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.

Get information or advice about Colorado alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer with a license in the state.