Boating Under the Influence in Colorado

People in Colorado love to get outside. And with over 4,000 lakes and reservoirs, it’s a great place for boating. But boating can be dangerous. That’s why it’s essential to follow safety precautions.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading contributory factor in boating fatalities. That’s why the state of Colorado is serious about enforcing boating under the influence (BUI) laws.

Staying Safe on The Water

Boating Under the Influence in ColoradoWe strongly encourage everyone who engages in recreational boating to follow safety precautions. Always have enough life jackets for everyone, bring along the recommended safety equipment, become familiar will Colorado boating laws, have a float plan, and don’t allow anyone to operate your vessel unless they are sober.

What Is a BUI in Colorado?

The penalties and enforcement procedures for boating under the influence are similar to those for driving under the influence (DUI) in Colorado. But there’s one major difference – boats are not legally classified as motor vehicles. That means the DMV has no jurisdiction over BUI cases. Instead, BUIs are prosecuted under Title 33 in the Parks and Wildlife sections of the Colorado Revised Statues (CRS).

A BUI conviction will not add any points to your driving record because it is a separate offense. The blood alcohol legal limit for both DUI and BUI is .08%, meaning you can be convicted of a BUI if you have been operating a boat with a BAC of .08% without any additional evidence. You can also be convicted of a BUI for operating a boat with any combination of drugs and/or alcohol that renders you “incapable of safely operating a vessel.”

In Colorado, the legal definition of BUI includes “every type of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation of persons and property on the water,” including a motorboat, sailboat, kayak, canoe, or raft.

Getting Charged with a BUI

The burden of probable cause for stopping a boat is much lower for law enforcement than it is for stopping a motor vehicle. Authorities will frequently stop a boat just to check the safety equipment. If they see evidence of drugs or alcohol, they can order the pilot to submit to a BAC test.

Anyone who is operating a boat is considered to be piloting the vessel. If the owner of a boat allows an intoxicated person to operate the boat, both the operator and the owner can be charged with and convicted for BUI. Prior BUI convictions and refusal to submit to chemical BAC testing can both be used against a defendant during a BUI hearing.

BUI Penalties in Colorado

If convicted for a BUI in Colorado, you face the following penalties:

  • First conviction. You will be prohibited from operating a vessel for three months. You will have to serve a jail sentence of at least five days but no more than a year. Your jail sentence may be suspended if you agree to undergo a treatment program. The court may also impose $200 to $1000 in fines and up to 96 hours community service.
  • Second conviction. If you receive a second BUI conviction within five years, you will be sentenced to between 60 days and one year in jail. Sixty to 120 hours of community service may also be imposed, and you will not be allowed to operate a vessel for one year. You may also be subject to fines between $500 and $5,000. Up to two years of probation may be required, and you may be prohibited from drinking for up to a year as part of probation. If ordered by the court, abstinence from alcohol and non-prescription drugs can be monitored by any method that a treatment facility considers necessary.

Fighting BUI Charges in Colorado Springs

Timothy Bussey has been defending clients against criminal prosecution for over two decades. If you have been charged with a BUI, we will provide proactive legal defense to protect your freedom. Call (719) 475-2555 today for a FREE and confidential consultation from The Bussey Law Firm, P.C.