Utah's Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws and Conviction Penalties

Read about boating under the influence (BUI) in Utah.

By , Attorney · Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

Most states have laws that specifically criminalize boating under the influence (BUI). But Utah has taken a different approach. Utah doesn't have separate BUI laws. Instead, law enforcement prosecutes BUI under the Utah DUI statutes. So the DUI statutes apply to boaters and motorists alike.

Utah's Law That Prohibits Boating Under the Influence

Utah prohibits operating a "vehicle" while having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05% or more or under the influence of drugs or alcohol to a degree that it is unsafe to operate a vehicle. The definition of "vehicle" includes a "motorboat."

Utah's BUI Law Applies Only to Motorized Boats

In many states, you can get a BUI on motorized and non-motorized boats and vessels. However, Utah's boating-under-the-influence restrictions apply only to motorboats. Utah law defines "motorboat" as "any vessel propelled by machinery, whether or not the machinery is the principal source of propulsion." This definition doesn't include sailboats, rowboats, and canoes that aren't motor powered.

Waterways Where Utah's BUI Restrictions Applies

Utah's BUI rules apply everywhere within the state. So, you can get a BUI on public and private waterways of all types, including rivers, lakes, and ponds.

Who Can Make an Arrest for Boating Under the Influence in Utah?

In Utah, police officers aren't the only ones that can investigate and arrest for BUI. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Officers and other park rangers also have the authority to make arrests if they are POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certified.

Generally, an officer can stop a boat if there's reasonable cause to believe the boat operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. During BUI investigations, officers typically look for the same impairment indicators as they do with DUI stops—things like slurred speech, red and watery eyes, and the odor of alcohol.

Utah's Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Penalties

BUI penalties in Utah are the same as those for a DUI in the state.

Fines, Jail Time, and Community Service for Utah BUI Convictions

The fines, jail time, and community services requirements for a BUI conviction generally depend on the number of prior convictions. For a first, second, and third conviction, the penalties are:

  • First offense. Most first BUIs are class B misdemeanors. But if the BUI offender causes "bodily injury" to another or a has passenger under the age of 16 (or under a passenger under 18 years old if the driver is under 21), it's a class A misdemeanor. A first-offense BUI carries at least 48 hours of jail, community service, or home confinement and over $1,300 in court-ordered fines and fees.
  • Second offense. A second-offense BUI within ten years of a prior BUI conviction is either a class A or class B misdemeanor, depending on whether the offense involves bodily injury or minor passengers (see "first offense" above). Generally, a second offense carries at least 240 hours of jail, community service, or home confinement and over $1,500 in court-ordered fines and fees.
  • Third or subsequent offense. If a BUI offender has at least two prior BUI convictions within the past ten years, the third or subsequent offense is a third-degree felony. Generally, a third offense carries up to five years in prison or 1,500 hours in jail or home confinement and at least $2,800 in fines and fees.

These are the authorized sentences for BUI conviction. But an offender can receive a sentence anywhere within these allowable ranges.

Utah's Substance Abuse Treatment Requirements for BUI Offenders

    Typically, judges must order all BUI offenders to participate in substance abuse screening and either complete treatment or a substance abuse education program.

    Probation and Ignition Interlocks for Utah BUI Offenders

    For a first offense, a judge has the option of ordering supervised probation and an ignition interlock device (IID) on any car the person drives. If a person had a high BAC (.16 or greater), the court must include both supervised probation and an IID as part of the sentence. IIDs are also mandatory for second and subsequent offenses.

    Administrative License Suspensions for Utah BUI Arrests

    A Utah BUI carries administrative penalties as well—meaning, the Utah Driver's License Division (DLD) can generally suspend a BUI offender's license, even before the case makes it to court. With few exceptions, if someone fails to request an administrative review hearing within 10 days of a BUI arrest, the DLD will automatically suspend driving privileges.

    Talk to an Attorney

    If you've been arrested for boating under the influence, you should get in contact with a local attorney that handles BUI cases. An experienced attorney can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and whether there are any available defenses to your charges.

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