Every applicant under 18 years of age in Colorado must submit an Affidavit of Liability and Guardianship, form DR2460, signed by a parent, stepparent, guardian or grandparent with Power of Attorney when applying for a permit or license.
The Colorado form DR 2460 does state that "I/We understand by signing this form I/we assume liabilities of the above minor driving a motor vehicle."So your friend is liable for the actions of her 15 year old child while he is operating a vehicle. If she is allowing him to drive her vehicle then she would have vicarious liability anyway for permitting him to drive her vehicle.
There are three different types of learner's permits issues in the state of Colorado.
The first type is a Driver's Education Permit. With this type of permit, one may only drive with their driver education instructor or the person(s) who signed the Affidavit of Liability (DR2460) until they are 15 years, 6 months. At 15 years, 6 months, one may drive only with the person(s) who signed the Affidavit of Liability (DR 2460) until the teen turns 18 years of age. This restriction is automatically lifted when the permit holder reach 18 years of age. The person may then drive with any licensed driver 21 years of age or older while still holding this permit.
The second type of permit in CO is the Driver Awareness Permit. At age 15 years 6 months you can obtain this type of permit. With this permit you may only drive with the person who signed the DR2460 until the age of 18. This restriction is automatically lifted when the minor turns 18. You may then drive with any licensed driver 21 years of age or older while holding this permit.
The third type is a Minor Instruction Permit which one can apply for at 16 years of age.
For all 3 types of permits, Driver Education, Driver Awareness and Minor Instruction, while you are under 18 if the person(s) who signed the DR2460 does not hold a valid Colorado driver's license, they may appoint an Alternate Permit Supervisor. The Alternate Permit Supervisor must hold a valid Colorado Driver's License and be 21 years of age or older. Drive time with an Alternate Permit Supervisor may be counted toward the 50-hour total required on the log sheet. The person(s) who signed the DR2460 may also allow any person 21 years of age or older, who holds a valid license, to supervise the minor while driving but that drive time does not count toward the 50 hour total required on the log sheet.
The differences with these types of permits are that:
To obtain a Driver Education Permit one must be between the ages of 15 years to 15 years and 6 months. One must have the Affidavit of Liability Guardianship (DR2460) completed, a completed affidavit of completion of a driver education classroom course or behind the wheel (BTW) indicating you have completed and passed the classroom portion of a state approved driver education course within 6 months of applying for your permit. This permit is valid for 3 years after issuance
For a Driver Awareness Permit one must be between 15 years and 6 months and 16 years. One must complete an Affidavit of Liability Guardianship (DR2460) and provide documentation indicating you have completed an approved 4 hour driver awareness program. This permit is valid for 3 years from the date of issue.
To receive a Minor Instruction Permit you can be between the ages of 16 years and 21 years. This permit is valid for 3 years from the date of issue but must be held for a minimum of 12 months before the person applies for a driver's license. With this permit the minor must present a completed Affidavit of Liability and Guardianship as well.
If your friend's child is only 15 than he would have the Driver Education Permit and must have completed a driver education class or BTW course however this would not allow him to drive on his own. So at his age he should only be allowed to drive with his driver education instructor or the person(s) who signed the DR2460. Once he turns 15 years, 6 months he then may only drive with the person(s) who signed the Affidavit of Liability (DR 2460) until he turns 18 years of age or proceeds to obtain a driver's license.
In CO whoever signs the Affidavit (DR 2460) agrees to take legal responsibility for the actions of the minor driver. Your friend would be liable for her son if he was in an accident. Whether her auto insurance would pay for claims would depend upon if there are exclusions for paying if the person does not have a valid license - which he does not have and he is driving against his permit restrictions. If her insurance would not pay her son, the driver, and her as the parent and car owner would be held personally responsible for the damages he caused.
As for the actually penalties for driving alone and against the restrictions of his permit. Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) 42-2-106 discusses minor permits and their restrictions. In subsection 3 notes that any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class A traffic infraction.
His mom could also be cited since CRS 42-2-139 states that no parent or guardian shall cause or knowingly permit his or her child or ward under the age of eighteen years to drive a motor vehicle upon any highway when such minor has not been issued a currently valid minor driver's license or instruction permit or shall cause or knowingly permit such child or ward to drive a motor vehicle upon any highway in violation of the conditions, limitations, or restrictions contained in a license or permit which has been issued to such child or ward. The penalty for any person who violates this section of law commits a class B infraction.
Colorado Statute 42-4-1701 explains penalties if you wish to read more on this subject by going through the laws of CO. It appears the fine maximum amount for traffic infractions is $100 which seems low in our opinion for a teen driving alone without the proper supervising driver so there may be other penalties that we are unaware of and thus would advise you to contact the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles. The Colorado DMV should be able to tell you the penalties imposed by the courts for a minor driving against the restrictions of their permit along with what the parent that allows this violation to occur.