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Charges for operating a boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs

It is a DUI classified criminal offence to operate a boat while impaired in Canada under Criminal Code section 320.14 (1).

Impaired boating is criminalized in Canada by the same Criminal Code provisions that deal with drunk driving offences. It is considered impaired driving to steer, be in care and control of, or otherwise operate a boat while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The same minimum blood concentration levels apply to boating as are applied to driving (80 mg/100 ml alcohol, or 2 ng/ml THC). The same DUI penalties also apply to those who are charged and convicted.

If you are a 1st time offender that is found guilty of boating while impaired you will receive at a minimum:
  1. a criminal record (conviction),
  2. a fine, and
  3. a driving prohibition / license suspension.
The driving prohibition applies to cars, trucks, motorcycles, and any other motor vehicle. This means that those who are caught, charged, and later convicted of operating a boat drunk or high will lose their driver’s license and receive a criminal record. If the accused has prior impaired driving convictions they will be facing a mandatory minimum jail sentence.

It does not matter whether the first offence was for driving a car drunk and the second is for boating while impaired, the mandatory minimum jail sentences still apply the same way as they would had they both been for drunk driving in a car. A person can be charged for boating/sailing while impaired even if the boat is docked in certain circumstances.

Any type of boat (vessel), whether propelled by an engine or not, is classified as a conveyance by the Criminal Code and subject to DUI charges.

Whether the boat is a yacht or a dinghy it does not matter. If it has an engine, or can otherwise be propelled by anything other than human force, it is definitely considered to be a conveyance by the Criminal Code. Even if the engine is turned off a person can still be charged and convicted if it is attached. In the recent case of R. v. Sillars, 2022 ONCA 510, the Ontario Court of Appeal determined a canoe to be a vessel and upheld DUI charges even though there was no engine at all. A lot of the cases we see involve those in small boats used for fishing and purely recreational purposes (sailing).

Care and control of the boat

One of the issues that the police may face is determining who is actually driving or in care and control of the boat if there are multiple people present. If a person is alone, perhaps on a fishing trip or enjoying some alone time on the water, then this is a non-issue.

The question of care and control in boating DUI cases is not as established as in cases involving motor vehicles, but generally courts will assess whether a reasonable inference that the boat could have been set in motion based on the circumstances of the alleged boater’s control of the vessel and thereby create a danger. Relevant questions include:
  1. Was the boat beached or moored?
  2. Where was the captain or helmsman situated when the police arrived?
  3. What was the BAC or THC blood concentration level of the helmsman?
  4. Were the keys in the engine?
  5. Did the police have reasonable grounds to suspect impairment prior to interacting with the helmsman/marine operator?
  6. Were the police conducting their investigation for arbitrary reasons at the time of arrest (Charter violations)?
  7. Was the vessel sailing in violation of other Ontario boating laws at the time the police boarded or interacted with its operator?
Police in Ontario know that people love to take their boats out and drink in the hot summer months whether alone or with family and friends. For this reason they deploy their marine units to patrol the waters to look for possible alcohol related offences, especially impaired boating.

When someone is charged the police will normally give them a Form 10 - Undertaking document with a fingerprinting and court date on it.

A Form 10 Undertaking cannot be ignored. Failure to attend for fingerprints and court will result in a warrant for their arrest and probably additional criminal charges for failure to comply with the Undertaking.

Just because a person is charged with impaired boating does not mean they are guilty. As mentioned, the law in boating DUI cases is far less established by court precedents in Ontario than cases involving cars. It is up to the courts, often the Ontario Court of Justice, to hear each case and decide whether the accused actually committed the offence and whether the police handled their investigation and arrest procedures in a way that does not violate the rules of evidence or the Charter.

Given the severe consequences for those convicted in these cases lawyers often take them to trial in the event the Crown Attorney is unwilling to drop (withdraw) the charges.

Call us today.

You don't have to jeopardize your future or waste thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees. We provide effective and affordable lawyer representation for those charged with impaired boating offences throughout Ontario.

Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on impaired boating related charges protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record.

    call us: 647-228-5969


  call us: 647-228-5969


Your case will be defended by a fully licensed Practicing Lawyer of the Law Society of Ontario. For more information about our lawyer, click here.

We provide our clients with:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • US travel advice and information
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • Clear goals of getting charges dropped and bail conditions varied without a trial
  • Help with related immigration issues
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Experienced, focused counsel

* Please note:

If you are not a paying client, we cannot answer questions and provide assistance with U.S. travel, immigration, employment background checks, and avoiding a criminal record. This includes those who have already retained other counsel and those whose cases have already been completed.

Are you a lawyer? If you are defending an impaired driving related case and are looking for expert advice regarding possible defences, case strategies, and information release management call us at: 647-228-5969.

Please note: We do not accept legal aid certificate cases. All clients are handled on a private retainer only.


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  We provide:
  • Flat fee pricing
  • 99%+ non-conviction success rate
  • U.S. travel advice and information
  • Help with related immigration issues
  • Employment background check advice/services
  • Fingerprints and records destruction services
  • A clear goal of getting the charges dropped without a trial
  • Vulnerable Sector records suppression help
  • Timely resolutions
  • Lawyer/client privilege
  • Experienced, focused counsel