Can Passengers Be Charged when a Driver Is Pulled Over for DUI?

Friends having fun in the back seat of a car

When a driver drinks too much and is pulled over by the police, he or she may face a charge for DUI. Although the driver may face DUI charges, the question remains as to whether the passengers in a DUI situation can be held accountable as well.

Underage Drinking

In situations where a driver is pulled over for a DUI, and the passengers are underage and drunk, the passengers can be charged with underage drinking. In Colorado, a minor convicted of underage drinking is likely to face the following consequences:

  • First Conviction: Fine of less than $250, driver’s license suspended for three months
  • Second Conviction: Fine of less than $500 and driver’s license suspended for six months
  • Third & Subsequent Convictions: Charged with Class 2 misdemeanor, fine of less than $1,000, sentenced to less than 12 months in jail, driver’s license suspended for one year

Other possible consequences include:

  • Up to 24 hours of community service
  • Complete alcohol assessment
  • Complete an alcohol assessment

Public Intoxication

If passengers are drunk when a driver is charged with a DUI, in some states, the passengers can be charged with public intoxication. However, in Colorado, public intoxication is not an illegal act, and therefore, drunk passengers in a DUI scenario in Colorado cannot be charged with public intoxication.

Open Container

If a passenger in a DUI scenario has an open container in the car, he or she and the driver will be charged with a class A traffic infraction (an infraction is not considered a crime.)

Consequences of a class A traffic infraction include:

  • Fines from $15 to $100
  • Points can be added to a person’s driver’s license


In specific scenarios, a drunk passenger who touches the wheel while the car is in motion is considered to have “driven a car while under the influence.” Therefore, if a drunk passenger grabs a steering wheel and causes an accident, he or she is likely to be charged with DUI or DWAI depending on the amount of alcohol in their system when the police take a report. Therefore, a passenger can be charged with a DUI, but the circumstances are particularly specific.

If you or a loved one have been charged with a DUI, DWAI, or underage drinking, Attorney Kevin Cahill can help. Call (720) 548-2990 for a free consultation concerning your case.

Categories: DUI