BUI Law: Colorado Boaters Can Receive Boating Under the Influence Charge in Kayaks

Driving Under the Influence, or DUI in Colorado is a traffic offense, Title 42.  This is significant, because the Colorado Department of Revenue and the Department of Motor Vehicles maintain jurisdiction over these charges.  However, “Boating Under the Influence,” is NOT codified in the traffic code but rather under the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Title 33.  What does this mean for Colorado boaters accused of a “B”UI?

A big distinction between BUI and DUI law is that of the actual “vessel” which the individual is accused of operating under the influence.  For BUI, the statute does not require that the vessel have an engine of any kind.  This leaves the possibility open that an impaired pilot of a craft such as a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or raft built from twigs and rope can be arrested and charged with Boating Under the Influence.

Additionally, the law for BUI states that any owner or operator of a vessel who knowingly allows the craft to come under the control of someone who is impaired can also be charged with BUI.  This section of the laws on boating under the influence covers the common situation where multiple passengers are allowed to operate the boat. 

Sentencing for Boating Under the Influence can vary, but the statutes state that anyone convicted for a first offense shall be imprisoned in the county jail for at least five (5) days but never for more than a year.  This sentence can be suspended if your attorney and the prosecutor are able to work out an plea bargain where you would complete a substance abuse treatment course or program.  This is not an option with all cases though, and should be discussed with your attorney prior to accepting any kind of plea offer from the State.