Are you going to sail about in your canoe and have a few drinks? Before doing so, you might want to give it some thought. Boating under the influence (BUI) or boating while intoxicated (BWI) may seem casual, but it’s a severe crime that may land you in jail, revoke your boating rights, and incur high fines.
And in the case of watercraft, we use the term BUI instead of DUI. But can you get a DUI on a canoe?
Yes! You may receive a DUI while paddling a canoe in most states. This article will look at why it’s against the law to operate a boat while intoxicated, what happens if you’re caught, and how to be safe while having fun on the water.
What is BUI – Boating Under the Influence
BUI is short for “Boating Under the Influence.” It describes controlling a boat when intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
Boating under the influence is unlawful and may have significant repercussions, including fines and even jail time, much like operating a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. On top of all, you should also ensure that your canoe registration is completed otherwise you can be subjected to even more charges.
Breathalyzers, sobriety checks, and blood testing are carried out to determine the boat operator’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), much like they would for a DUI.
The driver will get the appropriate punishment if the reading exceeds the permitted limit of 0.08%.
Is it Different from DUI?
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) include driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.
But there are a few differences between the two:
- Legal Limit: The limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which applies to BUI and DUI, is typically .08 percent. However, certain states increase the BUI cap to .10 percent. (Source)
- Impairment: According to the US Coast Guard, a boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink. (Source)
- Penalties: Penalties for BUI and DUI can vary by state, but generally, a BUI is considered less serious than a DUI. (Source)
For example, a BUI involving “bodily injury” to another person is a misdemeanor and generally carries one day to one year in jail and $200 to $1,000 in fines. (Source)
Does this include Canoes?
BUI laws pertain to ALL boats, from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships, and include foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters and U.S. vessels on the high seas. You might also be wondering Can Canoes Go In The Ocean? Yes, you can definitely paddle a canoe in the seas or choppy water conditions, however, it also depends on your skill level.
What do the Police Consider a “Vessel?”
According to the U.S. Code, the word “vessel” includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.
This means that any watercraft, including canoes, kayaks, and other similar vessels, can be considered a “vessel” by the police.
BUI Laws for Motorized and Non-Motorized Canoes
The penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) are not different for canoe with outboard motors installed vs non-motorized canoes.
In the United States, BUI laws apply to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, and rafts, regardless of whether they are motorized.
The penalties for BUI vary by state, and in Utah, for example, a first BUI offense carries a maximum of six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and a driver’s license suspension of up to 120 days.
In Washington state, a BUI is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Difference Between BUI and BWI
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) and Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) are terms used to describe operating a watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which makes canoeing dangerous.
BUI: The penalties for a BUI conviction are generally similar to or similar to those for a motor vehicle DUI.
BUI laws apply to anyone operating a boat, sailboat, yacht, or other personal watercraft, including water skis, sailboards, or other water devices
DWI: In some states, the penalties for a BWI conviction may be less severe than those for a BUI conviction.
BWI laws may apply to anyone operating a watercraft, including canoes, kayaks, and other small vessels.
How Serious Is a BUI – What Penalties Does it Include?
Boating under the influence (BUI) is a serious offense that can result in legal consequences such as fines, jail time, and even suspension of boating privileges.
The severity of the consequences can depend on factors such as the number of previous offenses and the blood alcohol content of the operator.
In some states, a BUI is considered a first-degree misdemeanor and can result in a maximum jail sentence of six months.
A second BUI offense within ten years can result in a minimum mandatory jail sentence of 10 days, and a third offense within ten years can result in even more severe consequences.
- Jail time
- Completion of an alcohol or drug treatment program
- Completion of a boating safety course
- Suspension of boating privileges
- Impounding or forfeiture of the vessel
- Permanent criminal record
- Misdemeanor or felony charges
- Increased penalties for offenders with prior convictions
BUI Laws for Canoes in Some Countries
USA Canoes BUI Laws
In the USA, operating any vessel, including canoes, is illegal. At the same time, under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state, the Coast Guard enforces a federal law prohibiting BUI (boating under the influence).
The penalties for violating BUI laws include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms.
Canoeing can be dangerous when you’re paddling intoxicated, not wearing canoe life jacket or doing any other adventure activity, like standing or sleeping in a canoe while camping. Collectively, you should not ignore any of the aspect that can put your life at risk while paddling on water.
In Florida, for example, most first-offense BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors and carry from $500 to $1,000 in fines and a maximum of six months in jail, while most second-offense BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors and carry from $1,000 to $2,000 in fines and a maximum of nine months in jail.
There would be a minimum ten-day jail sentence if the second offense occurred within five years of a prior BUI or DUI conviction.
Canada Canoes BUI Laws
In Canada, canoes are considered vessels under the Criminal Code of Canada, and it is illegal to operate a canoe while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
For a first offense, the minimum fine is $600; for a second offense, the minimum fine is $600, and at least 14 days in prison.
In 2019, an Ontario man was found guilty of “impaired canoeing” after a fatal boating accident on the Muskoka River, marking the first time someone was convicted of this offense. (Source)
UK Canoes BUI Laws
There are no specific BUI laws for canoes or kayaks in the UK. Still, it is important to note that operating any vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be dangerous and may lead to accidents.
The actual penalty for BUI is up to the magistrate who hears the case in court and depends on the offense.
Australia Canoes BUI Laws
The penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) in Australia can vary depending on the severity of the offense but can include fines, imprisonment, and the loss of boating privileges.
The penalties for a first BUI offense in Australia include a fine of up to $5,500, imprisonment for up to 18 months, and the loss of boating privileges for up to five years.
New Zealand Canoes BUI Laws
In New Zealand, it is illegal to operate a canoe while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) in New Zealand can vary depending on the severity of the offense but can include fines of up to $4,500 and imprisonment for up to three months.
The penalties for a first BUI offense in New Zealand usually include a night in jail, a fine not exceeding $1,000, and the impoundment of the canoe or kayak.
BUI Laws in Different States
BUI Laws in Tennessee
Effective July 1, 2023, the penalties for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) will be the same as those for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Tennessee.
The new law, HB0458, will change the penalties for BUI to the same as those for DUI in Tennessee. The penalties for a first-offense BUI generally carry up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, $250 to $2,500 in fines, and a full one-year boating privilege suspension.
A second-offense BUI generally carries up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, $500 to $2,500 in fines, and a two-year boating privilege suspension. The minimum penalties for a first offense include jail time and/or fines and fees, a required DUI class, and suspension of driving privileges.
The penalties for a BUI conviction include a fine of $1,000 minimum and $5,000 maximum, a minimum of 30 days in jail, and a maximum of up to 11 months and 29 days in jail.
BUI Laws in Colorado
If you have been charged with boating under the influence (BUI) in Colorado, the penalties include jail time and stiff fines.
For a first conviction, the penalty will be a mandatory jail sentence of at least 5 days, which can be extended up to 180 days. The court may also add a fine.
BUI Laws in Ohio
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) carries penalties, including three to 180 days in jail and $150 to $1,000 in fines for a first offense. Judges have the option of suspending the three-day minimum sentence.
A second offense carries a maximum jail term of six months and a $300 fine. A third offense is considered a third-degree felony, carrying a maximum sentence of five years and a $10,000 fine.
It is also illegal to manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device on the waters while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
BUI Laws in Florida
Boating under the influence (BUI) is illegal in Florida and is considered a serious charge. The penalties for a BUI conviction depend on several factors, including whether the operator has prior BUI or DUI convictions, the level of their BAC, and whether the BUI resulted in injury, damage, or death.
The penalties for a first BUI conviction are up to 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and 50 hours of community service.
A second BUI conviction within five years of a prior BUI or DUI conviction carries a minimum ten-day jail sentence, and most second-offense BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors and carry from $1,000 to $2,000 in fines and a maximum of nine months in jail.
A third BUI conviction is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
What does the effect of alcohol while Canoeing?
- Increased risk of hypothermia due to alcohol widening blood vessels
- Increased risk of injury due to impaired judgment and coordination,
- Increased risk of heat stress or dehydration
- Legal consequences
- Increased risk of alcohol overdose
- Losing your boating license
What Two Colors Are Difficult To Distinguish While Under The Influence?
The two colors that become difficult to distinguish while under the influence of alcohol are green and red.
What Do Numbers Say?
In 2021, there were 13,384 people killed in drunk-driving crashes in the US, which is about one person every 39 minutes. This represents an increase of 14% over the previous year.
DUI arrests dropped 31% between 2010 and 2019 but still represent 10% of nationwide arrests, twice the number made for all violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) combined.
Approximately 81% of people arrested for DUIs in 2019 were male, and 19% were female/
Young adults are most frequently arrested, with drivers aged 21-29 making up 33% of all DUI arrests in 2019.
FAQs – Can You Get A Dui on a Canoe
Are penalties the same for Individuals and corporate entities?
The penalties for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) can vary depending on the state and the severity of the offense.
However, the penalties for BUI apply to individuals and corporate entities similarly, even if you’re paddling a freighter canoe.
Can you have beer or alcohol on a canoe?
The answer to this question depends on the country and state you are living in, for example:
In Canada, drinking in a canoe is illegal, and if you are found to be under the influence while in a canoe, kayak, raft, or other watercraft, you can be charged with impaired operation.
In the US, it is not illegal to drink alcohol on a canoe, but it is illegal to operate a canoe while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Can you drink on a boat if you are not driving
In most states, it is legal to drink on a boat if you are not driving it. In comparison, alcohol consumption is not illegal while boating, boat operators should be aware of the laws and potential penalties for operating the vessel while under the influence.
Can you get a captain’s license with a DUI?
Yes, getting a captain’s license with a DUI conviction is possible, but it is important to disclose the offense to the Coast Guard when applying for a captain’s license.
But there are some things to keep in mind.
If you are applying for a captain’s license such as the OUPV/Six-pack, you must be honest and report any DUIs in your past.
A DUI conviction can affect a person’s ability to obtain boating insurance and may prevent them from getting a Captain’s license issued by some states. (Source)
A mariner with a DUI conviction is medically considered to be an alcohol abuser, according to the American Psychiatric Association standard.
Can you go to New Zealand with a DUI?
If you have a DUI conviction, you can enter New Zealand, but you must declare it on your arrival documents. (Source)
New Zealand does not consider a DUI an aggravated felony. Still, the sentence is important, and you would need to worry about DUI sentences of 12 months or more in jail within the last 10 months or any convictions where you were sentenced to 5 years or more in prison.
If your sentence was in the last five years, you must get a good character waiver to enter New Zealand. (Source)
Can I go to Australia with a DUI?
You may be denied entry to Australia if you have a DUI conviction. According to Australian Immigration Law, a DUI with a sentence of one year of jail or prison time or longer is considered an “aggravated felony,” and you can be excluded from entering.
However, most DUIs do not have a one-year or longer sentence, but certain multiple-offense felony DUIs might have a sentence that fits that criterion.
When Can You Legally Drink Alcohol On A Boat In Canada?
It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Canada.
The maximum allowable blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 80 mg per 100 ml (0.08%)
Passengers can legally drink alcohol on a boat, but only in small amounts.
The boat must be equipped with permanent cooking facilities, permanent sleeping facilities, and a permanent toilet.
It is not legal to drink while in what’s classed as a smaller recreational vehicle, including canoes, kayaks, and rafts.
Passionate freelance writer and certified boat captain, Sam brings his expertise to this pedal boating & Canoeing blog. With a knack for captivating storytelling and in-depth knowledge of boating regulations, he’s here to make your boating experience even more enjoyable and informed.