CO Parents: Did You Let Your Kids Drink on Thanksgiving?

For many families, getting together on holidays like Thanksgiving involves good food and drinks. When children reach a certain age, it can be tempting to let them sample the alcohol, but should you? Legally, are you allowed that?

It is illegal in Colorado for people under the age of 21 to drink or possess alcohol. However, limited circumstances under the law can grant an exception to this rule.

So, what if you decided to let your kids drink? Were you abiding by the law? Could you still get in trouble? With more holidays in the coming weeks, you may want to keep-in-mind the few circumstances under which your child can partake in the festivities without breaking the law.

Exceptions to the Drinking Rule in Colorado

In our state, a person can be charged with underage possession and consumption of alcohol if they are under the age of 21. However, there are some exceptions to that rule. The exceptions that allow someone underage to consume alcohol include:

Drinking on Private Property

Private property means the place where the person resides, not a business or public place. Additionally, they may only drink in this place if they have the consent of the guardian or parent and they are in their presence as they consume the alcohol. If your teen had a small glass of wine with a slice of Thanksgiving turkey, this will not get either of you hauled off to jail as long as they had your consent.

However, per Colorado law, it is illegal for a person under 21 to operate a motor vehicle. There is a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving under the age of 21. Doing that could get you and them into legal trouble.

For Hygienic or Medical Purposes

This exception addresses products such as medications with small amounts of alcohol in them or hygiene products such as mouthwash with small amounts of alcohol included in them.

It also covers baked goods that may have alcohol in them, which can be present at holiday get-togethers. So, if your child wants a piece of that rum cake or another serving of tiramisu, it will probably be fine.

For Education

Sometimes an underage person may need to taste alcohol for a specific reason related to education. For example, a student working in the restaurant industry may need to sample something under the supervision of their instructor. In that case, the student has to spit it out after sampling and cannot drink it.

Religious Reasons

Some religious ceremonies include alcohol in their services. Under the First Amendment, consuming alcohol is protected by freedom of speech. The first amendment allows individuals who are under the age of 18 to participate in their religious ceremonies.

What Can Happen in Colorado If There’s No Exception?

If your child consumes alcohol underage in a situation not described above, they can face legal trouble. First-time offenders for alcohol possession may only get a fine of $100 and an order to complete substance abuse treatment and the loss of their driver’s license for three months, but repeat offenders can face harsher penalties. They can lose their license for up to 12 months, be required to complete community service, and go to court-ordered treatment.

Bottom line: Your child having alcohol during the holidays in your home under your consent and supervision is OK. But never let them do it without you present or get behind the wheel of a car afterward – and make sure they understand responsible consumption of alcohol.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.