Colorado’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

Read about the consequences of boating under the influence (BUI) in Colorado.

Colorado law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term “vessel” includes “every description of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation of persons and property on the water, other than single-chambered air-inflated devices or seaplanes.” (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33-13-102(5) (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while:

  • impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two to an extent that “renders the person incapable of safely operating a vessel,” or
  • having a blood or breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33-13-108.1(1) (2016).)           

BUI Penalties

The consequences of a Colorado BUI generally depend on whether the offender has prior BUI convictions. First and repeat-offense BUIs are misdemeanors with the following penalties:

  • First offense. A first BUI carries five days to one year in jail, up to 96 hours of community service, a maximum of two years of probation, and the court can impose $200 to $1,000 in fines. The court also must order the offender not to operate a vessel for three months.
  • Repeat offense. Where a BUI offender has at least one prior BUI that occurred within five years of the current violation, the repeat offense will carry 60 days to one year in jail, 60 to 120 hours of community service, up to two years of probation, and the court can impose $500 to $5,000 in fines. The court also must order the offender not to operate a vessel for one year.

Judges have the option of suspending all or part of a jail sentence if the offender completes a drug and alcohol education or treatment program and agrees to stay alcohol free for one year. For a first offense, a judge can suspend the whole sentence. But on a repeat offense, a judge can suspend only 55 days of the 60-day minimum sentence.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 33-13-108.1(12) (2016).)


Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence in Colorado, get in contact with an experienced BUI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A good BUI attorney should be able to explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on your best course of action.

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