Do BUI Laws Cover All Boats?

Posted on: 25 March 2016

While it may be nice and relaxing to have a few beers while puttering around the lake in your boat, boating under the influence is against the law. In most states, you'll face the same exact consequences as driving while under the influence if you're caught drinking and boating by the Coast Guard or marine police. Strangely enough, though, some boats are excluded from BUI laws, meaning you won't get in trouble if you're caught drinking while piloting them. Here's what you need to know about this caveat.

Boat's Propulsion is Deciding Factor

Whether a boat falls under the purview of BUI laws is determined by how it is propelled. All motorized vehicles, such as yachts, are generally covered. However, boats and watercrafts that are human-powered or propelled by water currents are generally exempt. For example, you likely won't get a BUI if you are caught drinking while in a rowboat in Texas, since this type of vehicle is manually propelled by you and the water.

Other types of water vehicles that may be exempt include:

  • Kayaks
  • Canoes
  • Dinghies
  • Skiffs
  • Gondolas
  • Hydrocycles
  • Paddleboards

On the other hand, if you're caught piloting an engine-powered boat while intoxicated, you could face up to a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail for your first conviction. The penalties may be worse if you were previously convicted of a BUI or DUI.

Check Your Local Laws

Be aware, though, that laws can change on a dime. Colorado expanded its BUI boating laws in 2008 to include non-motorized vessels. In that state, you can be arrested for being intoxicated in any watercraft regardless of whether it has an engine or not. It's critical that you always check your local laws before heading out on the water to avoid inadvertently getting in trouble for something that may have previously been legal.

Unfortunately, ignorance of the law is no legal defense to DUI charges. However, an experienced DUI attorney may be able to use other strategies to help you avoid being convicted of a BUI. The lawyer can challenge the evidence, for example. Breathalyzer tests can be inaccurate, especially if you have a disease like diabetes that can affect the results. Other options include challenging the legality of the way the evidence was collected and negotiating a lesser sentence with the prosecutor.

If you are arrested for a BUI, consult with an attorney as soon as possible to protect yourself. For more information about BUIs or assistance with a case, contact a local criminal defense lawyer.