With summer approaching, Colorado boaters must be wary of BUI laws

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Centennial State is home to more than 2,000 lakes and reservoirs - making it is veritable paradise to boaters and anglers alike. In fact, there are several boating hotspots within a short driving distance of Denver alone, including Chatfield Reservoir and Cherry Creek Reservoir, just to name a few.

With summer just round the corner, it is a good time to review the state's laws regarding alcohol and boating. After all, nothing can ruin a summer faster than a conviction for boating under the influence (BUI).

Colorado BUI laws are strict

In Colorado, a BUI is officially known as operating a vessel while under the influence. Similar to criminal charges of drunk driving (DUI), Colorado's BUI law states that it is illegal for any person to operate or be in physical control of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or while he or she has a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher. If fact, if an individual registers a BAC of at least 0.08 percent within two hours of operating a boat, Colorado presumes he or she has violated the state's BUI law - an offense more commonly referred to as BUI per se.

In addition, Colorado defines vessels quite broadly, meaning your boat does not have to have a motor for you to face a possible BUI. Therefore, not only can you be charged with boating under the influence while using a motorboat or Jet Ski, but also a sailboat, canoe or even a kayak.

If police ever accuse you of a BUI, you need to contact an attorney right away, as the penalties associated with a conviction are often quite severe. Indeed, even first-time offenders may face:

  • Jail time ranging from at least five days to one year, which may be suspended if the offender completes an alcohol-abuse education or treatment program and doesn't drink for a year
  • Fine of $200-$1,000, plus court costs
  • Community service of up to 96 hours
  • Probation of up to two years
  • Three-month revocation of the offender's right to operate a water vessel

It is also important to keep in mind that an owner of a vessel can be charged if he or she allows an intoxicated individual to operate his or her boat. This particular offense may come into play when boaters swap out the person at the helm as they enjoy a day on the water, which is quite common. If a drunk individual takes the wheel, the owner may face a jail sentence of up to one year and/or a fine ranging from $200 to $1,000.

Always speak to an attorney

If you live in the Denver area and have been charged with a BUI or any other related offense, you need to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A skilled lawyer can explain your legal options and help you develop an individualized defense strategy. Your rights and freedom are important, so do everything possible to protect them.