Ahoy! You Have An OUI!
Here's a timely legal question that came to us recently: can you get an OUI in a canoe?
We asked Game Warden Investigator Kevin Anderson of the Maine State Warden Service. Then with a little help from LRS member attorney Walter McKee, put together this answer.
The short answer is yes, because a canoe is a “watercraft,“ according to Title 12 of the Maine Revised Statutes, and any attempt to operate a watercraft while intoxicated is illegal. Game Warden Investigator Anderson helped explain the law, leaving no doubt that whether you are bombing down the lake in a motorboat, or drifting down the river in a canoe, you are at risk for an OUI if you have been drinking. This applies even if you are moored in a boat and enjoying the sunset somewhere, because the craft does not have to be “under way” for you to be at risk of violating the law. This is similar to the laws for OUI on land, which also stipulate that you don’t have to be moving—you just have to be behind the “wheel.”
With the canoe example, the only circumstance in which you can feel free to crack a beer is if the canoe is “permanently docked in one location and not used as means of transportation on the water” – think DiMillo’s Restaurant in Portland.
Warden Anderson warns that riverside drinking – no boat involved – can also get you into trouble. While not an OUI, you may still be subject to a fine for public drinking.
And as of Friday, August 1, all persons who are charged with OUI who at any time ever had a felony OUI will have their new OUI charge upgraded to a felony. Under previous law once 10 years had passed after a felony OUI any new OUI could only be charged as a misdemeanor. While this will affect only a very small number of cases, the consequences on those few cases has gone up – a lot.
Maine has been careful to spell out all the rules and consequences for OUI charges on the Bureau of Highway Safety website, here: http://www.maine.gov/dps/bhs/impaired-driving/laws.html.
If you are summonsed or cited by a warden for OUI or public drinking, your legal process will be the same. And if you get an OUI in your canoe after already being convicted of two OUIs in wheeled vehicles, this will be your critical third OUI.
Better to have a designated paddler – or leave the drinking until you are out of the public domain and up on your own back porch.
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