This Summer has been brutally hot here in Colorado and many of us are likely trying to beat the heat by spending time on one of Colorado’s numerous lakes or reservoirs. It is likely no surprise that hot weather, lakes and boats often go hand-in-hand with cold alcoholic beverages. Therefore, we wanted to clarify a few things about Colorado’s boating under the influence (BUI) laws.
Colorado law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term “vessel” is defined by statute but for our purposes is essentially meant to include watercraft that can be used a means of transportation for people and property. A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while: 1) impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two to an extent that “renders the person incapable of safely operating a vessel,” or 2) having a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater. (As a side note, it is also illegal to operate or ride skis, tubes, boards, etc. while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substance although there is no .08 BAC limit. Essentially, you cannot be intoxicated to the point where you are unable to safely operate or ride these devices. This is a separate misdemeanor offense from BUI and the consequences are far less severe.)
The consequences of a Colorado BUI depend on whether the offender has prior BUI convictions. A first BUI carries five days to one year in jail, up to 96 hours of community service, a maximum of two years of probation, and the court can impose up to $1,000 in fines. The court also must order the offender not to operate a vessel for three months. A repeat offense, where the person has at least one prior BUI that occurred within five years of the current violation, will carry 60 days to one year in jail, up to 120 hours of community service, up to two years of probation, and the court can impose up to $5,000 in fines. The court also must order the offender not to operate a vessel for one year.
BUI law also differs from DUIs in that while having open alcohol containers is illegal in cars, certain alcohol is legal to have on boats. However, your selection is fairly limited – you are only allowed to bring 3.2 percent alcohol drinks. Pretty much nothing but light beer has only 3.2 percent alcohol. As far as marijuana goes, smoking on a boat is illegal, as it is in any public place.
Would you like to know more? Contact Jake Johnson at email@example.com or 720.488.9586.