Dindinger & Kohler, PLLC
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"Can I Be Arrested for BUI in a Canoe?"

As summer heats up, Idahoans like to get out and enjoy the amazing outdoor opportunities this state has to offer.  Some of these people will consume alcohol while enjoying their favorite outdoor pastimes.  We have had clients ask whether it is illegal to operate various non-motorized recreational equipment while under the influence of alcohol.  The answer is, "it depends."  Read on for more information!

The Idaho Safe Boating Act makes it unlawful for any person to be in actual physical control of a vessel on the waters of the state while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater (0.02 for those under the age of 21) (Idaho Code 67-7034).  "Actual physical control" under the Act is defined as "being in the operator's position of the vessel with the motor running or with the vessel moving," while "vessel" is defined as "every description of watercraft...capable of being used as a means of transportation on water..." (Idaho Code 67-7003).  Interestingly, "inflatable air mattresses, single inner tubes, and beach and water toys" are specifically exempted from the definition of vessel.

So, we know that a canoe meets the definition of a vessel under the Idaho Safe Boating Act, and we know it is illegal to be in actual physical control of a vessel while intoxicated and while it is moving.  So, if you are over the legal alcohol limit, are sitting in a seat in the canoe, and that canoe is moving, the opinion of our firm is that you can be legitimately arrested, charged, and prosecuted for boating under the influence.

What about bicycles?  Interestingly, Idaho's driving under the influence statute only applies to "motor vehicles," (Idaho Code 18-8004) which are defined by statute as being "self-propelled," and "does not include vehicles moved solely by human power..." (Idaho Code 49-123).  In other words, you can be prosecuted for operating a canoe while under the influence of alcohol alone on a thousand-acre lake, but you cannot be prosecuted for the same crime if you ride your bike down Boise's State Street in rush hour traffic while tanked (though you may be committing other crimes).

We encourage all of our friends to be safe as they enjoy the beautiful weather and the benefits of living in this part of the country.  The safest option is to not drink, but if you do find yourself facing a criminal charge, please give us a call and let us help.

 - EWD

Edward Dindinger