Much like Driving Under The Influence (DUI) laws, Boating Under the Influence (BUI) can carry heavy consequences.
State laws governing against BUI make it illegal for any person to operate a boat or personal watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The legal consequences of BUI can range from fines to prison time.
Today, with alcohol and drugs contributing to over half of all boating accidents, law enforcement officials are more likely than ever to check if boat operators and their passengers are safe on the water.
It is important to review boating safety requirements regularly and know how BUI or BWI (Boating While Intoxicated) laws can affect you to avoid the legal penalties that come along with a BUI conviction. Legal penalties can include costly fines, suspension or forfeiture of your boating license, a criminal record, increased boater insurance rates or jail time.
BUI regulations exist to protect boat operators, their passengers, and the community. Federal and state authorities can pull the operator of a boat or personal watercraft over in the same way that they would pull over a car operator suspected of drunk driving.
The U.S. Coast Guard has put out statements that alcohol is more dangerous on water than on land because of the multiple factors that can also affect a person’s motor skills while on water. Often referred to as “boater’s fatigue,” these factors include heat, sun, noise, wind, motion of the boat, and glare. Adding alcohol or drugs on top of these factors increases the chance that an accident could happen.
In addition to pulling a boat operator over, federal and state law enforcement officials can also set up BUI checkpoints to question and check boat operators. Officials may also pull a boat over in some states without probable cause of BUI.
When You Can Get a BUI Charge
Most state BUI laws have a per se BUI offense which involves a charge for a person operating a boat or personal watercraft with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 percent. Some states have a slightly higher acceptable BAC level of .1 percent.
Most states also have stricter BUI laws regarding minors. Some states make it illegal for a minor to have any amount of alcohol in their system while boating. Additionally, boat operators that are over 21 can also face a harsher consequence if they are convicted of a BUI while minors were on board, or if they face alcohol or drugs to minors on the boat.
Consequences of a BUI Conviction
Convictions for BUI offenses can have severe consequences, similar to DUI convictions. A conviction could result in a criminal record, suspension or revocation of a boating license, monetary fines , higher boat and car insurance rates, and even jail time. In addition to these possible outcomes, your driver’s license could also be affected by a BUI conviction.
While most BUIs are charged as misdemeanors, BUIs that result in an injury to another person can be charged as a felony and result in increased jail time. Boating under the Influence and causing the death of another person could carry a punishment up to 10 years in jail.
Tips for Avoiding BUI & Practicing Boating Safety
• Understand and obey each state’s BUI laws.
• Limit consumption of alcohol to small amounts that are consumed onshore if possible. Plan to dock your boat and have enough time between drinking and getting back on the boat.
• Have no alcohol on board. It’s the safest way to enjoy your time on the water.
• Limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid boater’s fatigue.
• Bring a variety of non-alcoholic drinks to stay hydrated.
• Wear life vests when waters are rough. In most states, it is required that children wear life vests at all times while on a boat.
If you have been charged with a BUI, hire an experienced BUI attorney who is familiar with state BUI laws. BUI penalties can be severe, hiring an BUI/BWI attorney experienced in defending Boating under the Influence cases can help keep consequences to a minimum.