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Boating Under the Influence: What You Need to Know

Boating Under the Influence: What You Need to Know

While most of us are well aware that every state has DUI laws to help keep drivers safe, many people don’t realize that every state and the federal government has laws against boating under the influence (BUI). These laws permit law enforcement officers to stop boats and other watercrafts, to see if the operators and their passengers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A BUI charge can be devastating to your reputation and can put your freedom at stake. You might even face expensive fines and jail time if you have a prior criminal record.

Increases in alcohol and drug-related boating injuries and fatalities pushed legislatures to enact BUI laws. According to the Insurance Information Institute, more than 50% of all boating accidents involve alcohol or drugs. Alcohol was found to be the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

It doesn’t matter if you are operating a fishing boat, sailboat, yacht, personal watercraft, or sailboard, you can face DUI charges if law enforcement thinks you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Much like a DUI charge, the legal penalties you face can range from civil fines and the forfeiture of your boating license, to imprisonment for causing a fatal accident.

The U.S. Coast Guard cautions that "alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land." There are factors that can affect a boat operator's physical and mental abilities while on the water, such as heat, the sun, noise, wind, glare, and the motion of a boat on the water for a long period of time. These factors are known as “boater's fatigue.” If a person has been drinking alcohol or using drugs, their ability to safely operate a vessel on the water can be severely compromised. The agency states that BUI regulations are in place to discourage and minimize intoxicated individuals from operating a vessel on the water.

Similar to a DUI, both federal and state authorities can pull over the operator of a boat or other watercraft. Also like DUIs, law enforcement officials sometimes set up BUI checkpoints on the water to question and check the condition of a boat’s operator. 

If you have been arrested for boating under the influence, you should immediately contact our BUI lawyers in Denver. We offer free case consultations and we are ready to help you get the justice you deserve.