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Boating & Drinking

Drinking and driving is not the only alcohol related crime in Connecticut. Boating and driving is also against the law. On this page, we explore the fines and penalties associated with boating under the influence, the official Connecticut statutes, and how BUI is enforced in Connecticut. For help fighting a BUI, contact us.

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Driving a boat under the influence of alcohol, in Connecticut, has the same consequences as driving a motor vehicle under the influence. If you have any mental or physical disabilities that can affect your driving abilities then it is unlawful to handle a boat or watercraft in any waterway within the state of Connecticut. Keep this in mind if you are boating in Connecticut in the summer.

Fines and Penalties For Violations

  1. After your first offense a fine is likely to be placed on your crime. It ranges from $500 – $1,000. The other options include 100 hours of serving the community in some way, one year of having your boating license suspended, six months in jail or suspended, as well as probation. This crime is not taken lightly and has severe consequences even for a first offense. 
  2. If your second offense occurs within ten years of a previous BUI charge, your fine increases to $1,000 – $4,000. Your license can be suspended for up to three years, two years incarcerated, or probation with 100 hours of community service. 
  3. After your third offense within ten years of your first one, the consequences become more extreme than before. The fine ranges anywhere between $2,000 – $8,000 and could result in boating privileges being taken away for life. You can also be sentenced up to three years in jail or be assigned probation with 100 hours of community service. 

These ramifications mirror motor vehicle DUI punishments. Unfortunately, during the summer, when the temperatures are warmer, is when BUIs become more relevant. It’s important to comply with the laws set in place so not only you remain safe, but also everyone else that might come close or pass your boat. 

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Enforcement

Enforcement officers have the entitlement to board and check boats. The boats that these officers drive flash blue lights so that drivers recognize who they are. It’s against the law to have or use any blue lights that can be mistaken as an officer. If you find yourself in a situation where an officer is flashing their lights and approaching you, slow down immediately and make sure you are not in the way of the officer as they check the boat.

The law in Connecticut specifies “under the influence” means a BAC level of .08% for anyone over the age of 21 years old. Tests that can gather this information include urine samples, breathalyzers, or blood tests. This law is put in place to prevent drivers from causing fatal accidents related to alcohol or drugs.

The effects on your body includes blurred vision, lack of coordination, impaired judgement or flawed balance. At times, it can be hard to decipher how much alcohol or drugs you have actually consumed, but if you are the one held responsible for driving the boat, it is your job to make sure of your limits.

Statutes

On October 1, 2003, Connecticut began to criminally prosecute persons who operate watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. Recreational boaters now need to be aware of the legal limits, and what they can do to minimize the impact on their lives a boating under the influence (BUI) charge can have.

Sec. 15-133. Rules for safe operation. Operation of vessel while under the influence of liquor or drugs. Penalties. Records of conviction. (a) The rules prescribed by this section shall apply on all state and federal waters.

(b) No person shall use a vessel in a manner that unreasonably or unnecessarily interferes with free and proper navigation. Anchoring under a bridge, in a narrow channel or in a congested water not designated as an anchorage area is such interference, except in case of emergency.

(c) No person shall alter, deface or remove any capacity information label affixed to any vessel.

(d) No person shall operate a vessel: (1) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, or both, or (2) while such person has an elevated blood alcohol content. For the purposes of this section and sections 15-140l and 15-140n, “elevated blood alcohol content” means:

(A) A ratio of alcohol in the blood of such person that is eight-hundredths of one per cent or more of alcohol, by weight, or (B) if such person is under twenty-one years of age, a ratio of alcohol in the blood of such person that is two-hundredths of one per cent or more of alcohol, by weight. For purposes of this section and sections 15-140l, 15-140n, 15-140o and 15-140q, “operate” means that the vessel is underway or aground and not moored, anchored or docked.

(e) In any prosecution for a violation of subdivision (1) of subsection (d) of this section, evidence concerning the amount of alcohol in the defendant’s blood or urine at the time of the alleged offense, as shown by a chemical analysis of the defendant’s blood, breath or urine, otherwise admissible under subsection (a) of section 15-140r, shall be admissible only at the request of the defendant.

(f) No person shall operate a vessel or engage in any activity contrary to the regulations adopted by the commissioner.

(g) No person shall moor a vessel to, obstruct, remove, damage or destroy any navigation aid or any device used to mark a restricted area.

(h) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (d) of this section shall: (1) For conviction of a first violation,

(A) be fined not less than five hundred dollars or more than one thousand dollars, and

(B) be (i) imprisoned not more than six months, forty-eight consecutive hours of which may not be suspended or reduced in any manner, or (ii) imprisoned not more than six months, with the execution of such sentence of imprisonment suspended entirely and a period of probation imposed requiring as a condition of such probation that such person perform one hundred hours of community service, as defined in section 14-227e, and

(C) have such person’s safe boating certificate or certificate of personal watercraft operation, if any, or right to operate a vessel that requires a safe boating certificate for operation suspended for one year;

(2) for conviction of a second violation not later than ten years after a prior conviction for the same offense,

(A) be fined not less than one thousand dollars or more than four thousand dollars,

(B) be imprisoned not more than two years, one hundred twenty consecutive days of which may not be suspended or reduced in any manner, and sentenced to a period of probation requiring as a condition of such probation that such person perform one hundred hours of community service, as defined in section 14-227e, and

(C) have such person’s safe boating certificate or certificate of personal watercraft operation, if any, or right to operate a vessel that requires a safe boating certificate for operation suspended for three years or until the date of such person’s twenty-first birthday, whichever is longer; and

(3) for conviction of a third and subsequent violation not later than ten years after a prior conviction for the same offense,

(A) be fined not less than two thousand dollars or more than eight thousand dollars,

(B) be imprisoned not more than three years, one year of which may not be suspended or reduced in any manner, and sentenced to a period of probation requiring as a condition of such probation that such person perform one hundred hours of community service, as defined in section 14-227e, and

(C) have such person’s safe boating certificate or certificate of personal watercraft operation, if any, or right to operate a vessel that requires a safe boating certificate for operation permanently revoked upon such third offense.

(i) The suspension of a safe boating certificate or certificate of personal watercraft operation or right to operate a vessel that requires a safe boating certificate for operation imposed under subsection

(h) of this section shall take effect immediately upon expiration of any period in which an appeal of any conviction under subsection (d) of this section may be taken, provided if an appeal is taken, the suspension shall be stayed during the pendency of such appeal. If the suspension or revocation takes effect, the defendant shall return, not later than the second business day after the suspension or revocation takes effect, by personal delivery or first class mail, the safe boating certificate or certificate of personal watercraft operation issued to the defendant.

(j) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (b) of this section shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars. Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (c) or (g) of this section shall be fined not less than one hundred dollars and not more than five hundred dollars. Any person who violates any of the provisions of subsection (f) of this section shall have committed an infraction.

(k) (1) A record shall be kept by the Superior Court of any conviction relating to the operation of a vessel. A summary of such record, with a statement of the number of the operator’s safe boating certificate or certificate of personal watercraft operation shall, not later than five days after such conviction, forfeiture or any other disposition or nolle, be transmitted to the commissioner by such court. Each court shall report each conviction under subsection (d) of this section to the commissioner. The commissioner shall suspend the safe boating certificate or certificate of personal watercraft operation of the person reported as convicted for the period of time required by subsection (h) of this section.

(2) The safe boating certificate, right to operate a vessel that requires a safe boating certificate for operation or certificate of personal watercraft operation of a person found guilty under subsection (d) of this section who is under eighteen years of age shall be suspended by the commissioner for the period of time set forth in subsection (h) of this section, or until such person attains the age of eighteen years, whichever period is longer.

One way to stay safe in the summer is to avoid operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol. In the state of Connecticut, this is a crime known as BUI, or boating under the influence. If you have a boating license in Connecticut, please read on for more information!

Connecticut BUI Laws

The Connecticut Boater’s Guide and the Connecticut General Statutes outline the crime of BUI. These statutes claim that no person can operate a watercraft or a boat in Connecticut if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Since this law was passed, the penalties for BUI have increased in the state of Connecticut.

In 2003, the BUI laws changed to mirror the DUI laws in Connecticut. To be considered under the influence of alcohol, you must have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. This BAC will result in a BUI arrest. As a boat or watercraft operator under the age of 21, you face arrest for BUI if your BAC is at or above .02%.

Penalties

If convicted as a first time BUI offender, you face a fine of $500-1,000 and the suspension of your boating license for one year. In addition, you face a jail sentence of six months, 48 hours of which cannot get reduced or suspended. You also face a period of probation and 100 hours of community service.

If convicted of a second BUI offense (within 10 years of the first one), the penalties increase. You will face a fine of $1,000-4,000, a three-year suspension of your boating license, probation with 100 hours of community service, and a prison sentence of two years, 120 days of which can’t get reduced or suspended.

If you are convicted for a third or subsequent BUI (within 10 years of your last BUI conviction), you face a fine of $2,000-8,000, permanent revocation of your boating license, probation with 100 hours of community service, and a prison sentence of three years, one year of which cannot be reduced or suspended.

Just as with DUI offenders, refusing to submit a chemical test will result in additional penalties. This means that you should always submit to a test. It is actually better to fail a chemical test than to refuse it.

Enforcement

Enforcement officers have the entitlement to board and check boats. The boats that these officers drive flash blue lights so that drivers recognize who they are. It’s against the law to have or use any blue lights that can be mistaken as an officer. If you find yourself in a situation where an officer is flashing their lights and approaching you, slow down immediately and make sure you are not in the way of the officer as they check the boat.

The law in Connecticut specifies “under the influence” means a BAC level of .08% for anyone over the age of 21 years old. Tests that can gather this information include urine samples, breathalyzers, or blood tests. This law is put in place to prevent drivers from causing fatal accidents related to alcohol or drugs. The effects on your body includes blurred vision, lack of coordination, impaired judgement or flawed balance. At times, it can be hard to decipher how much alcohol or drugs you have actually consumed, but if you are the one held responsible for driving the boat, it is your job to make sure of your limits.

Getting Help

If you face a BUI charge in Connecticut, contact my office. I can get you the resources that you need to get through this charge.

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