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COLORADO Criminal and Civil Law Cross Over – When You Give A Party and Other People Become Intoxicated – Am I Responsible For Their Later Acts?

What is not well understood by parents that permit drinking at their children’s parties… or even adult parties in the homes of good friends… is the liability on the part of those hosts for the actions that occur after these intoxicated individuals leave.  This web page is intended to address those issues of responsibility and liability.

Colorado State Law – Social Hosts Laws

Laws vary widely from state to state. Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises. Some extend the host’s liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors.

As society has become less tolerant of drunk driving and injuries resulting from the consumption of alcohol and as individuals and organizations concerned with alcohol abuse have taken an active role in the political process, the laws relating to alcohol have generally become more stringent.

Example of a Case:

Newburyport, Massachusetts

Trista Zinck (deceased)

Neil Bornstein (brain damage)

William White (vehicular homicide)

Brendan Kneram (social host)

In January of 2003, Brendan Kneram, 19, purchased a 30 pack of beer from the Gateway Country Store in Seabrook, NH using a fake ID. He brought the beer back to his parents house, who were not home, and consumed the beer with three other friends. William White, 20, was in attendance at Kneram’s residence, and after having consumed the beer purchased by Kneram, proceeded to drive his vehicle, despite efforts by Kneram to stop him.

Driving alone, William White struck and killed Trista Zinck, 16, and permanently injured her boyfriend, Neil Bornstein. White pled guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 2 ½ years in the house of corrections followed by an additional year for leaving the scene of the accident.

Brendan Kneram, was charged under the Social Host Law of providing alcohol to minors. Though not 21, the law applies under the interpretation of the language “whoever” provides the alcohol or the place to consume it, as Kneram did both. Brendan Kneram pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 1 year in the House of Corrections with 6 months suspended.

A civil suit followed the criminal proceedings, finding both William White and the Gateway Country Store negligent. Total damages awarded to the Zinck and Bornstein families totaled $8.7 million dollars. Both defendants are responsible for the entire amount of the judgment under Joint and Several Liability

Colorado State Laws Related To Alcohol Use:

Summary of Laws Requiring BAC Chemical Tests on

Persons Killed in Traffic Accident §§42-4-1301.1(8) and42-4-1304

A BAC Chemical Test Is Given to the the Following Persons:

Driver: Yes

Vehicle Passengers: No

Pedestrian: Yes (15 years of age or older)

Laws Establishing the Minimum Ages Concerning Alcoholic Beverages:

Minimum Age (Years) Sale/Purchase: is  21 §12-47-901

Minimum Age (Years) Possession: 21 Applies to possession in public places and motor vehicles.

There is an exemption for possession on private property with parental consent or for religious purposes. §§12-47-901 and 18-13-122.

Colorado Dram Shop Laws and Related Legal Actions: Colorado State Has a Dram Shop Law – §§12-47-801

Under this law, a licensee is liable for the injuries caused by a patron if the sale or service of alcoholic beverages was “willfully and knowingly” made to such patron who was under 21, was visibly intoxicated, or was a known habitual drunkard.

The Colorado Dram Shop Law” Concept Has Been Adopted Via a Change to the Common Law Rule by Action of the Highest Court of Record in the State –  Kerby v. Flamingo Club, Inc., 532 P.2d 975 (Colo. 1974)) has been abrogated by legislation. §12-47-801(1).

Colorado Dram Shop Actions-Social Hosts: §12-47-801(4).

Liability is limited to the actions of those under the legal drinking age.   A person must be sentenced to either a mandatory jail term or a mandatory fine but may be sentenced to both.

However, the mandatory jail or fine sanction may be suspended if the offender completes 40 (mandatory) -300 hours of community service. §42-2-206(1)(a)(II).

A separate dram shop law, §13-21-103, provides that persons injured in person, property, or means of support by an intoxicated person has an action against any person who, “by selling or giving away intoxicating liquors to any habitual drunkard, causes the intoxication” of that drunkard. Damages amounts are subject to the general limitations found in §13-21-102.5.

Damages awards are limited to $150,000, but are adjusted each year to account for inflation. §12-47-801 (3), (4)(c) and (5)(a).

The dram shop law, the service of alcoholic beverages must be “willfully and knowingly” made to persons under 21 years old.

Persons other than an alcoholic sales business.

Any person convicted of providing alcohol to an underage person or allowing an underage person to use an adult’s identification to purchase alcohol shall have  the driver’s license suspended for six months.

Criminal Action Against Owner or Employees of Establishments that Serve Alcoholic

Beverages to Intoxicated Patrons

Type of Criminal Action: Class 2 Misdemeanor §12-47-901(1)(a) and (5)(a)(1) and 12-47-903(2)

Term of Imprisonment: 3 to 12 months §18-1.3-501 – Fine: $250 to $1,000 §18-1.3-501

Administrative Actions Against Owners of Establishments that Serve Alcoholic Beverages to Intoxicated Patrons:

License to Serve Alcoholic Beverages – License is withdrawn

Suspension or Revocation §12-47-601(1).

Length of Term of License Withdrawal?: Yes – Suspension – Not more than 6 months; Revocation-Period not specified in the statutes .

Criminal Actions Against Owners or Employees of Establishments that Serve Alcoholic Beverages or the Wrong Type of Alcoholic Beverage to Those Persons Under the Minimum Legal Drinking Age:

Type of Criminal Action: Class 2 Misdemeanor §12-47-901(1)(a) and (5)(a)(1) and 12-47-903(2)

Term of Imprisonment: 3 to 12 months §18-1.3-501 Fine ($ Range): $250 to $1,000 §18-1.3-501

Administrative Actions Against Owners of Establishments That Serve Alcoholic Beverages to Those Persons Under the Minimum Legal Drinking Age:

License to Serve Alcoholic Beverages – Withdrawn?: Yes  – Suspension or Revocation §12-47-601(1). Length of Term License Withdrawal: Suspension – Not more than 6 months. Revocation-Period not specified in the statutes.

Colorado Laws Prohibiting (1) the Possession of Open Containers of Alcoholic Beverages and (2) the Consumption of Alcoholic

Violation is punishable by a fine of up to $100, 24 hours of community service and completion of an alcohol assessment, education program or treatment program. §18-13-133(2)(b).

Summary suspension is allowed for not more than 15 days. §12-47-601(2).

Beverages in the Passenger Compartment of a Vehicle:

Colorado Has An Open Container Law – illegal to have an open alcoholic beverage

container or to drink an alcoholic beverage in the passenger area; exceptions provided for passengers provided transportation for compensation, house coaches or trailers, and the possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the area behind the last upright seat of a motor vehicle that is not equipped with a trunk or in an area not normally occupied by the driver or a passenger in a motor vehicle not equipped with a trunk. §42-4-1305

Colorado Has An Anti-Consumption Law – Driver and Passengers183 §12-47-901(1)(h)

The law states “it is unlawful for any person: to consume malt, wines, or spirituous liquor in a public place.” Of course, licensed premises are exempt. There is an exception for passengers at least 21 years old who are riding in a luxury limousine or a chartered bus.

In lieu of license suspension, the licensee may be allowed to pay an administrative fine. The fine shall be 20 percent of the estimated gross revenues of the sale of either alcoholic beverages or fermented malt beverages over the period of the proposed suspension. However, such a fine must be at least $200 but cannot be more than $5,000. §§12-47-601(3).

Colorado  – Underage Drinking: Underage Possession of Alcohol

Internal Possession

A minor-in-possession charge that typically requires evidence of alcohol in the minor’s body (as determined by a blood, breath or urine test), but that does not require any specific evidence of possession or consumption (for example through witness observation or an admission on the part of the minor)

Possession is prohibited WITH THE FOLLOWING EXCEPTION(S):

• private location

•AND parent/guardian Colo. Rev. Stat. s. 12-47-901 Colo. Rev. Stat. s. 18-13-122

POSSESSION: Colorado’s exception requires the knowledge and consent of the owner of the private property when minors possess alcohol (in addition to the consent and presence of a parent or guardian).

CONSUMPTION: Colorado’s exception requires the knowledge and consent of the owner of the private property when minors consume alcohol (in addition to the consent and presence of a parent or guardian).

Colorado Laws On Underage Drinking: Underage Purchase of Alcohol

Purchase is prohibited and there is NO ALLOWANCE for youth purchase for law enforcement purposes.

Colorado Laws On Underage Drinking: Furnishing Alcohol to Minors

Furnishing is prohibited WITH THE FOLLOWING EXCEPTION(S):

•private location

•AND parent/guardian

Colorado Underage Drinking: Minimum Ages for On-Premises Servers and Bartenders

Beer: 18 for both servers and bartenders

Wine: 18 for both servers and bartenders

Spirits: 18 for both servers and bartenders

Condition(s) that must be met in order for an underage person to sell alcoholic beverages:

•manager/supervisor is present

Notes: Persons under 21 years of age employed to sell or dispense malt, vinous, or spirituous liquors are required to be supervised by another person who is on premise and has attained 21 years of age.

Colorado Underage Drinking: Minimum Ages for Off-Premises Sellers

Beer: 21

Wine: 21

Spirits: 21

Although employees must be at least 21 years of age to sell malt, vinous, or spirituous liquors in a retail liquor store, employees at least 18 years of age may sell fermented malt beverages containing not more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight in establishments where fermented malt beverages are sold at retail in containers for off-premises consumption

Colorado Underage Drinking Laws: False Identification for Obtaining Alcohol

Provision(s) targeting minors:

•Use of a false ID to obtain alcohol is a criminal offense

•Penalty may include driver’s license suspension through a judicial procedure

Provision(s) targeting suppliers:

•It is a criminal offense to lend, transfer, or sell a false ID

Provision(s) targeting retailers:

•Licenses for drivers under age 21 are easily distinguishable from those for drivers age 21 and older

•Retailers are permitted to seize apparently false IDs

•Specific affirmative defense – the retailer inspected the false ID and came to a reasonable conclusion based on its appearance that it was valid

•Retailer has the authority to detain a minor suspected of using a false ID in connection with the purchase of alcohol

In Colorado, the license revocation period for a first conviction of obtaining or attempting to obtain an alcoholic beverage by misrepresentation of age is twenty-four hours of public service, if ordered by the court, or three months.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits: Youth (Underage Operators of Noncommercial Motor Vehicles)

BAC limit: 0.02 – a BAC level above the limit is per se (conclusive) evidence of a violation.

Applies to drivers under age 21.

Retail Sales: Keg Registration – Registration is not required.

Colorado Underage Drinking Laws: Use/Lose: Driving Privileges

Type(s) of violation leading to driver’s license suspension, revocation, or denial:

•Underage purchase

•Underage possession

•Underage consumption

Use/lose penalties apply to minors under age 21

Authority to impose driver’s license sanction  – mandatory

Length of suspension/revocation:

• Minimum: Not Specified

• Maximum: 90 days

In Colorado, the license revocation period for a first conviction of underage purchase, possession, or consumption is twenty-four hours of public service, if ordered by the court, or three months.

Colorado Underage Drinking Laws: Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties

No State-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties.


Other Articles of Interest:

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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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