Whether you can get a DUI on the paddle board is not something most of us have ever considered. While most of us have been enjoying the open water and the freedom that paddling allows us, some of us would have been guilty of enjoying the occasional glass of wine or beer. I’ll have to admit before I started researching this topic I wasn’t sure about whether you could receive a DUI on your paddle board.

Technically, you cannot get a DUI on a paddle board the term used is BUI (Boating Under the Influence) rather than driving under the influence. The vast majority of states deem it illegal to operate a paddle board when your BAL is.08% the exception being Wyoming in Colorado where it’s 0.1%.

I’ll have to admit of surprise to learn this too, but paddleboards when operated on public waterways are considered vessels not toys and while you’re operating the same waters with your paddle board as powered boats, paddlers have the same laws and restrictions and you can indeed get a BUI for paddling under the influence

BUI (Boating Under the Influence)

Drugs and alcohol are deemed to influence your reaction time, judgment, coordination, vision, and balance. As a result, it has been a major contributor to deaths and accidents on the water. Because of this, your ability to safely operate a paddle board will be impaired by consuming any alcohol, as you are more likely to lose your balance and capsize.

There are some exceptions and special rules that need to be considered depending on the state you’re paddling in. At this point it’s important that I make a “legal disclaimer” we do not deem the information provided in this article as legal advice and is to be used for information on purposes only. if you have a specific concerns or questions about the laws I discuss in this article regarding paddling in your state, I always advise that you contact a local attorney.

More information of BUI?

Alcohol consumption is only part of the equation when you’re thinking of terms in terms of BUI. The laws of most states can include the use of any control substance that could impair a paddle board operator from safely and effectively piloting their board. 

From state to state legal terms can vary, but the intent of these by laws remains the same. If you consume a substance that can prevent you in your ability to safely and effectively operate a paddle board, they consider you to be under the influence of that substance.

Whether it’s cough medicine, amphetamines, marijuana, or alcohol. If the officer who stops you believes that your ability to pilot your paddle board has been impaired, he might charge you with a BUI.

To get some charity on the subject, I consulted a friend of mine who works in law enforcement about whether he’s ever charged someone with BUI.

 I gave him the example of some herbal remedies I’ve been taking for anxiety. His answer was straightforward: if the substance you’re taking alters your ability to operate your paddle board shape or form, he could deem you to be under the influence.

Is there a difference between BWI and BUI

That’s occasionally some confusion between the legal terms used in different states. Some states use the term BWI (boating while intoxicated) there is use BUI(boating under the influence) despite the different wording both refer to the operation of a vessel while under the influence are intoxication of a substance that impairs your ability to operate safely.

Do police officers deem paddleboards to be vessels?

This is where DUI laws can get a little tricky as they’re open to interpretation. Depending on the police officer in question and how they choose to apply the booting laws of any individual state whether they deem your paddle board to be a vessel will largely be down to whether it strictly enforces the individual states boating laws.

You find that the vast majority of police officers will exercise their own judgment with an encounter with a paddle border they believed to be under the influence

For example, I need motorized paddle board will instantly be deemed a vessel and if you’re inebriated while operating it expect to receive a BUI.

This is where we enter a gray area and discuss non-motorized paddle boards. When you are operating your board by manual power, many states do exempt paddle boards what others include the term anyone operating any vessel.

This is where the individual interpretation of different law enforcement officers and how they enforce their state’s statues will vary regarding BUI. Although there’s a lack of clarity in the laws and we can only describe the wording as confusing, there’s a high probability that you will end up in court before it is all resolved.

The best advice I can give you is to not risk operating your paddle board under the influence of anything that could deem your ability to operate it to be impaired. You’re safest decision will always be to “Don’t Drink and PaddleBoard”

What are the penalties for a BUI?

As with the laws and their interpretation, the severity of penalties issued for a BUI very depending on the state. They will also increase depending on whether as a first, second or considered being a repeat offense.

A First BUI Offense – I’m receiving your first BUI you can expect a fine that will average anything from $300 to $1,000 and jail time varying from 30 days to 6 months. Most States first offenses are viewed as misdemeanors.

A Second BUI Offense-if you receive a second BUI expect to receive a fine from $500 to $2000 although second offenses are still viewed as misdemeanors they can cause jail time from 6 months to 1 year.

Deemed to be a repeat offender – I need subsequent BUIs I guaranteed to result in a fine from 1,000 to $3,000 and anything up to 2 years in jail

Where Extenuating Circumstances apply – For example in States like Delaware, if you found to be operating a vessel under the influence and have minors on the vessel with you additional jail time and they will apply fines. Similar offenses can be upgraded to a felony. Most times they were completely suspended your voting license for several years and completion of an alcohol education program and hours of community service may be required before you left back on your paddle board.

The easiest ways to avoid a BUI

If you’re wondering about the easiest way to avoid receiving a BUI, I refer you to my previous answer before during or after paddle boarding best advice is not to drink. Doing this will help you avoid any of the unpleasantness fines and potential jail time that come with operating your paddle board under the influence. Although you may have happily paddled for years while enjoying different substances, more and more states are legislating for BUI and as a result expect law enforcement officers to become more vigilant in the enforcement of these laws.

What should I do if I get stopped for a BUI?

Law enforcement officers are under no deletions with the fact that people will drink and operate paddle boards. They know what happens and will continue to happen. I consulted some of my law enforcement friends and they recommend you cooperate and remain courteous, especially if you’re operating a non-motorized vessel as this will go a long way to a police officer using his discussion.

I’ll give you an example of an encounter I had a few years ago when I was out fishing with my wife and kids. We were pulled over by a sheriff’s patrol boat you can counter was friendly and courteous, the only problem ones that we didn’t have our class for trouble and within easy reach we had left it under a seat. The officer just pointed out this while reminding us if he had seen any alcohol on board he wouldn’t oblige to cite us adopting a positive and friendly attitude save me from a significant fine once again this advice is based on my personal experience I’m not a lawyer and as a result cannot give you legal advice, I always refer you to a lawyer who is an expert in the field to consult with any issues you encounter in this article.

Why are states cracking down on BUI?

The days where booting and drinking or simply overlooked by law enforcement are gone, unfortunately in recent years because of the explosion and popularity of paddle boarding and other water sports, the number of accidents and deaths are on the rise. Some of these have been down to BUI, which is led to States becoming far more stringent in their enforcement of boarding laws.

That a paddle board lack a motor makes them less maneuverable, it is more difficult to get out of the way should trouble arise on the water. If they find you to be operating your paddle board under the influence, expect police officers to deem the offense as serious as if you are operating a motorized boat.