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BUI: What Are the Rules for Drinking and Boating in Colorado?

Summer’s not quite here yet, but given recent incidents on the Colorado River, we thought we’d clarify some things about Colorado’s boating under the influence (BUI) laws.

First things first, drinking on water can be a lot more hazardous than drinking on land. Think about it – the smoothness (or choppiness) of the water can quite literally rock the boat, you have the dehydrating nature of the bright summer sun and potentially disorienting winds. Add alcohol to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.

BUI Laws

Just like drunk drivers, drunk boaters are considered legally impaired when their BAC reaches .08 percent. Just like driver’s licenses, boating licenses come with implied consent to alcohol tests by police. And just like DUI, a BUI can count toward your criminal record of alcohol-related offenses. This puts you one step closer to a felony DUI if your drunk boating charge is not your first offense.

Here’s where BUI laws can differ. 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.

Lastly, what qualifies as a boat under Colorado law? Can you drink and kayak, or smoke and canoe? Legally, no – any watercraft operated by motor, wind, paddle or oar is considered a boat for the purposes of BUI. Sailboats, speedboats, canoes, kayaks – they’re all boats.

If you are charged with BUI in Colorado, speaking to a lawyer is your best chance of having your charges and penalties reduced.

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