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Colorado’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws: Know Before You Go

Summer is on the horizon, and for many Coloradans, that means enjoying the great outdoors on the picturesque Colorado River. However, recent incidents on the water have prompted a closer look at Colorado’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws. This article will explore the essential aspects of BUI regulations, emphasizing the importance of understanding and adhering to these laws to ensure safe and enjoyable boating experiences.

Boating and Alcohol: A Potentially Dangerous Mix

Boating under the influence poses unique challenges and dangers compared to drinking on land. The motion of the water can significantly impact a boat’s stability, making it more susceptible to accidents when passengers are impaired. Additionally, factors like dehydration due to the sun and disorienting winds can compound the risks associated with alcohol consumption while boating.

Similar to operating a motor vehicle, individuals are considered legally impaired when their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) reaches or exceeds 0.08 percent while boating. Furthermore, just as drivers implicitly consent to alcohol tests during traffic stops, boaters must comply with alcohol testing requested by law enforcement. Notably, a BUI conviction can contribute to an individual’s criminal record of alcohol-related offenses, potentially leading to more severe penalties if subsequent DUI charges arise.

Key Differences in Colorado’s BUI Laws

While some parallels exist between DUI and BUI laws, there are notable differences specific to boating. One such difference concerns open alcohol containers. In motor vehicles, having open containers of alcohol is generally illegal. However, when it comes to boating, certain alcoholic beverages are permitted. Boaters can carry drinks with a maximum alcohol content of 3.2 percent, typically limited to light beer.

It is essential to highlight that marijuana use on boats is illegal in Colorado, consistent with regulations prohibiting smoking in any public place.

Understanding What Constitutes a Boat

A crucial aspect of Colorado’s BUI laws involves defining what qualifies as a boat. This definition is comprehensive and encompasses a wide range of watercraft. Whether you are operating a sailboat, a speedboat, a canoe, or a kayak, any vessel powered by motor, wind, paddle, or oar is considered a boat under Colorado law. This means that BUI regulations apply uniformly to all types of watercraft.

Seeking Legal Counsel for BUI Charges

Suppose you find yourself facing BUI charges in Colorado. In that case, consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is in your best interest. Securing legal representation substantially enhances the likelihood of minimizing or alleviating charges and penalties. To navigate the intricacies of BUI laws successfully, one must possess a comprehensive understanding of the legal terrain, and the assistance of a seasoned attorney can offer invaluable guidance throughout the proceedings.


As the summer season approaches and recreational activities on Colorado’s waterways become more prevalent, it is crucial to prioritize safety and adhere to BUI laws. Boating under the influence not only jeopardizes your safety and the safety of others but canalso result in legal consequences that may have a lasting impact. Whether you enjoy the serenity of the Colorado River or any other water body in the state, remember that responsible and alcohol-free boating ensures a more enjoyable and secure experience.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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