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“Operation Dry Water,” doesn’t that sound like something straight out of a spy thriller? If only. It’s actually the name of the national crackdown on boating under the influence (BUI) that takes place every summer. Alcohol is the leading cause of boater deaths and was responsible for a whopping 20 percent of boating accidents in Colorado last year, but it seems most boaters don’t realize drinking on the water is more dangerous than drinking on land. This is because the rocking motion, strong sun, wind and spray all accelerate impairment and fatigue, making one more susceptible to poor navigation, falling overboard, hypothermia, and drowning. BUIs, therefore, are treated just as seriously as DUIs. In some ways, the laws regarding drunk driving and boozy boating are identical. A boater is considered legally intoxicated when his blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches 0.08 percent; a zero-tolerance policy is in effect for minors; and a boating license comes with “implied” consent for alcohol testing. A BUI could also count towards your overall tally of drunk-driving offenses, so expect greater penalties if it follows a traditional DUI or vice versa. Unlike automobiles, however, open containers of alcohol are acceptable on water vessels—though, of course, there’s a catch. Only 3.2 percent alcohol is allowed in Colorado state parks (guardians of most lakes and rivers), which is essentially light or malt beer. Wine, whiskey, and winsome summer cocktails simply won’t make the cut as you kayak along Confluence Park, and neither will kegs or glass containers. Combining marijuana and nautical activities is a whole other story. Cannabis isn’t allowed in public, so smoking, ingesting, or vaporizing the drug while on a boat (regardless of whether you’re the skipper or a passenger) is absolutely forbidden. Unless you’re canoeing in your friend’s backyard pool, leave the weed at home. Also bear in mind that Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws do NOT apply in national parks and on federal lands, such as Lake Granby or Lake Estes. If you smoked pot the night before and are found to be stoned while paddling through these waters the next morning, Colorado law will not protect you. Remember, marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. Incidentally, Colorado’s BUI laws changed in 2008 to include ALL WATERCRAFT operated by “motor, wind, paddle, and oar, such as jet skis, sailboats, motorboats, kayaks, canoes, and rafts.” In other words, you’re eligible for a BUI even if your vessel doesn’t have an engine. One last thing in case you’re seafaring outside of Colorado, the U.S. Coast Guard enforces a federal BUI law, which pertains “to ALL boats (from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships)—and includes foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas.” Sigh, don’t you just love boat talk?

Navigating Legal Waters: Understanding BUI (Boating Under the Influence) in Colorado and Beyond

A few weeks ago, we discussed the consequences of earning a DUI in a state other than your own. As the summer season approaches and travel plans take shape, it’s equally important to consider the implications of drunk driving in foreign countries. While exploring new destinations and cultures is exhilarating, being aware of the diverse legal landscape surrounding DUI offenses worldwide is crucial. Let’s delve into the intricacies of international DUI, from entry restrictions to legal limits, enforcement practices, and the aftermath of such incidents.

Entry Restrictions: It’s essential to recognize that every nation can deny entry to individuals with DUI convictions from other countries or those with prior DUI records from previous visits to the same destination. Canada, for instance, is known for its strict approach to digging up criminal records, and border officials may refuse entry to those with drunk-driving offenses. Travelers with a DUI in their history can still visit Canada. Still, they must apply for admission through a Canadian consulate beforehand. It’s worth noting that this stringent approach applies to travelers with DUI convictions from the past ten years when attempting to cross the U.S.-Canada border.

Local Driving Laws: Before embarking on international road trips, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with local driving laws. Each country has regulations, including permissible blood alcohol content (BAC) limits. For example, Algeria enforces a BAC limit of 0.01 percent, essentially zero tolerance for alcohol consumption before driving. Sweden maintains a legal limit of 0.02 percent, verging on zero tolerance, and imposes fines based on the individual’s financial status. While laws vary, tourists should know that enforcement may target disoriented travelers, making them susceptible to penalties or legal consequences.

Arrest Abroad: Swift action is crucial if you are arrested for DUI in a foreign country. Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or regional consulate immediately. They can serve as a temporary liaison between you and local authorities. However, it’s essential to understand that the U.S. State Department will not advocate on your behalf. Instead, they can provide you with the name of an English-speaking attorney familiar with local laws. Given the significant variations in court procedures and DUI penalties across nations, having a local attorney is indispensable. Attempting to leave the country without addressing the charges is ill-advised, as arrests are typically logged into international databases, leading to immigration issues upon departure.

Post-Arrest Considerations: Upon returning home, seeking legal counsel is paramount. Repeat DUI offenders face harsher penalties, and international DUIs can count toward your overall record. For example, suppose you were arrested for drunk driving in Ireland’s Ring of Kerry and subsequently in Aspen. In that case, the second offense carries a heavier sentence. Furthermore, some countries do not expunge DUI incidents from one’s criminal record, potentially affecting American background checks for years to come if not appropriately handled.


In conclusion, the complexities and potential consequences of driving under the influence (DUI) in foreign countries underscore the importance of informed travel planning. As we previously explored the repercussions of earning a DUI in a state other than one’s own, delving into the international aspects reveals the strict entry policies of various nations and the diverse legal limits and enforcement practices surrounding drunk driving. Travelers must know these regulations, consult reliable travel guides, and communicate with local authorities or rental car representatives to ensure compliance with local driving laws.

Additionally, the aftermath of an international DUI arrest necessitates prompt and strategic action. Seeking assistance from the U.S. Embassy or consulate is vital, but understanding that they won’t act as advocates underscores the importance of securing legal representation familiar with the local legal landscape. Furthermore, the long-term implications on one’s criminal record and the potential for cumulative penalties emphasize the need for thorough resolution and legal guidance upon returning home. Ultimately, the interconnected nature of DUI consequences, both domestically and internationally, reinforces the need for responsible and informed behavior to avoid legal complications and safeguard one’s record. Whether navigating the Autobahn or exploring the Ring of Kerry, a proactive approach to understanding and adhering to local laws ensures a safer and more enjoyable travel experience.

Should you ever require legal guidance regarding alcohol- and drug-related driving offenses in Colorado or assistance with international DUI matters, consider contacting Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, a trusted law firm dedicated to assisting clients in such complex legal situations. Your safety and well-being are paramount; knowledgeable legal support can make all the difference. Safe travels!

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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