Connecticut's Boating Under the Influence Laws
Read about Connecticut’s boating under the influence (BUI) laws and the consequences of a conviction.
Connecticut law prohibits operating a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term “vessel” includes “every description of watercraft, other than a seaplane on water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water.” (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15-127 (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while:
- impaired by alcohol or drugs to “an appreciable degree,” or
- having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15-133(d) (2016); State v. Pulaski, 71 Conn. App. 497 (2002).)
The consequences of a Connecticut BUI conviction depend on the circumstances of the case. But generally, the possible penalties are:
- First-offense BUI. A first BUI typically carries $500 to $1,000 in fines and either 48 hours to six months in jail or 100 hours of community service. Convicted boaters also face a one-year boating privilege suspension.
- Second-offense BUI. A second BUI generally carries $1,000 to $4,000 in fines, 120 days to two years in jail, 100 hours of community service, and at least a three-year boating privilege suspension.
- Third-offense BUI. A third BUI generally carries $2,000 to $8,000 in fines, one to three years in jail, 100 hours of community service, and a permanent boating privilege suspension.
For purposes of determining whether a BUI is a second or third offense, only prior convictions within the past ten years count. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 15-133(h) (2016).)
Reckless Operation While Under the Influence
Connecticut law provides enhanced penalties for certain BUIs involving “reckless operation.” The consequences of a reckless-operation BUI conviction are:
- Reckless operation BUI in the first degree. A BUI offender who causes “serious physical injury” to another or more than $2,000 in property damage can be convicted of a first degree reckless-operation BUI. The offense carries $2,500 to $5,000 in fines and/or up to two years in jail. Convicted boaters also face a boating privilege suspension of at least one year.
- Reckless operation BUI in the second degree. A BUI offender who “operates a vessel at such speed or maneuvers a vessel in such a manner as to endanger the life, limb or property of another person” can be convicted of a second degree reckless-operation BUI. The offense carries $500 to $1,000 in fines and/or up to six months in jail. Convicted boaters also face a boating privilege suspension of at least one year.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 15-140l, 15-140n (2016).)
HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?
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
The consequences of a Connecticut BUI are serious, and the facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for boating under the influence, get in touch with an experienced BUI lawyer. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.