Cottage season is in full swing, but this year, blackflies aren’t the only thing to worry about when going out on the lake. It’s pretty common for cottagers to enjoy a drink while paddling around casting off for some fish. However, if you get caught operating a canoe under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you could face criminal charges. It is possible to be charged with a DUI in a canoe.
Back in 2017 news channels were announcing that courts were planning to revise laws so that canoers wouldn’t face the severe consequences DUIs. As a small, low-speed, non-motorized vessel not everyone felt that canoeing under the influence was a charge worth pursuing.
However, these revisions don’t seem to have come into effect. As recently as this past fall, multiple canoers in Ontario were charged with operating a vessel while under the influence.
TECHNICALLY NOT A DUI
Paddling a canoe while under the influence of drugs or alcohol isn’t technically classified as a DUI in a canoe. Instead, it is considered “impaired operation of a vessel.” Still, in the Criminal Code, there is little difference between the two. A first offence nets a minimum fine of $1000 dollars. It can also lead to having your driver’s licence suspended making it hard to get back up to the cottage.
While people can drink on a large vessel, if equipped with sleeping facilities, a head, and cooking facilities, they can only do so legally while it is anchored or docked. However, on a smaller vessel, like a canoe, you cannot drink at any time and any alcohol must be transported in a sealed container.
Some other canoe-related charges include:
- Impaired with a paddle in-hand: Being in control of a canoe while impaired (regardless of whether it is in motion).
- Drunk-Paddling: Paddling the canoe while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Hit-and-Paddle: The canoe equivalent of a hit-and-run.
- Dangerous Operation: Operating a vessel in a way that is dangerous to the public in regard to the circumstances and natural conditions.
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE OPERATING THE CANOE TO FACE CHARGES
Although the laws prevent you from drinking in the canoe or from operating one while under the influence, they don’t explicitly restrict someone under the influence from being on a canoe.
However, it’s hardly worth the risk. The bar for claiming someone is operating the vessel is very low, and authorities can easily place charges.
For instance, some argue that you can face charges for assisting in navigation while under the influence even if you don’t have a paddle. An action like suggesting where to go is enough for authorities to lay charges.
The legal definition of a vessel is any watercraft designed for transportation or navigation on, under, or immediately above water. So, in addition to canoes, just about any non-motorized watercraft can fall under these laws including:
- Paddle Boats
- Stand Up Paddleboards
TORONTO DUI ATTORNEY
Facing a DUI or charges for operating a vessel while under the influence can have a significant impact on your life. If you are facing charges for operating a vehicle or vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol you need an experienced defence lawyer.
William Jaksa is a skilled Toronto criminal defence attorney who has helped a number of clients facing DUI charges.
Contact us today for a consultation.