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Vail Law: ‘Having fun’ carries consequences as an adult

Rohn Robbins
Vail Law
Vail, CO Colorado

In this series, we’re focusing from a legal perspective, on some of what it means to be 18. That important birthday is the dividing line between childhood and most of the obligations and responsibilities of adulthood.

This series is general in nature and does not specific to Colorado law. Rather, it is intended to summarize much of the common law regarding adults in the United States.

The subject of this column is having fun as well as the rights, duties and obligations of adulthood that weigh upon having fun once you turn 18.



With the onset of adulthood there arrive many new opportunities for having fun, it is best to bear in mind that there are legal limits and adult-like consequences, too. If your parties disturb the peace, a peace officer may well come banging at your door. If your frat initiation is overly zealous, ritualistic, dangerous, or involves the consumption of alcohol by minors, someone could well enjoy the hospitality of the local constabulary. Worse, if someone is injured in a frat initiation, serious criminal charges could result.

About that party …



Some things that might result in the police being summoned to break up your unruly party include: fighting, overly loud music or activities, rowdiness, excessive (or underage) alcohol consumption and/or illegal drug use, or partying into the wee hours of the night.

If the police show up, they may not only break up the party but, depending upon the circumstances, may make arrests. Your landlord might decide to kick you out, too. On a slightly brighter note, if strangers or uninvited guests crash your party, you may summon the police to boot the trespassers out.

There are limits to permissible frat or sorority initiations. “Hazing” – defined as any method of initiation into an organization which causes (or is likely to cause) bodily danger, physical harm or personal degradation – is illegal. If you engage in hazing, you can be heavily fined and/or sent to jail. If hazing is going on, the best thing to do is to leave and to report it to the appropriate authorities, anonymously if you must. While doing so may feel like ratting out your friends, failing to do so could result in someone being seriously injured and serious criminal charges being leveled against those friends.



How about drinking?

Drinking alcoholic beverages under the age of 21 is illegal in most states. Use or possession of any controlled substance without a prescription is illegal. I’ll leave the health and moral implications to your parents. What constitutes an alcoholic beverage (by percentage alcoholic content) varies within narrow confines from state to state. It is best to learn the law of where you’ll be visiting or living before you hoist a cold one.

If you use a fake i.d., or someone else’s i.d., to purchase alcohol you will be breaking the law. Additionally, the person who furnished you the fake i.d. may face his or her own charges. You cannot lend, borrow or alter a driver’s license or other identification in any way. This is particularly germane in our post 9-11 world.

You’ve heard this before, but possessing or using drugs (excepting over-the-counter drugs and including drugs prescribed to someone else) is illegal.The kind of trouble you can get into depends, among other things, upon: the type or class of drug, the quantity in your possession, whether you distribute it to others, and the jurisdiction. Some states have (relative to other states) lenient drug laws when it comes to small quantities of marijuana kept for personal use (although it is still illegal).Some states, like our own, sanction the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but only with a properly authorized medical marijuana user card.

In most if not all states, possession of “harder” drugs may subject you to serious felony charges. In addition to criminal charges (and a potentially long prison sentence), if you are convicted of a drug offense, you will not only have a record which will trail you for the rest of your life, but you may also be kicked out of school. Drug possession of even tiny amounts in foreign countries is foolhardy. In some countries, possession of even minuscule amounts of drugs (even marijuana) could subject you to the death penalty. No kidding.

The use of controlled body-building drugs (such as anabolic steroids) is also illegal. If you are convicted of distribution, you could spend up to five years in prison and pay fines up to $250,000 under federal law.

Again, I’ll leave the moral and health discussion of drug and anabolic steroid use to you and your parents. Suffice it to say that drugs – whether used recreationally or to build strong bodies 12 ways – are a life-wrecker. Not only can they ruin your health and emotional well-being, but the curse of a drug conviction can destroy your future. Simply, stay away.

Eighteen is a joyous age and the beginning of an exciting adventure into adulthood. Treated responsibly, new and varied opportunities will open up for you and reward you with myriad pleasures. Treated irresponsibly and immaturely, however, the obligations of adulthood that come along with these adventures will smack you down hard. You are an adult now. Act like one and the world is your oyster. Screw up now, and the consequences stick.

Next time: money matters.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He may be heard on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at robbins@colorado.net.


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