Boating under the influence (BUI) is the operation of a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an activity that is unlawful in every state. While states have drunk driving laws that are enforced to keep drivers, passengers, and community safe from automobile drunk drivers on the streets and highways, the federal government and states have also enacted laws that stop boats and other watercraft from being operated while under the influence. Local law enforcement organizations and the Coast Guard enforce BUI laws, and the rules apply to all boats in U.S. waters and U.S. vessels on the high seas.

Why Are BUI Laws Important?

The U.S Coast Guard has stated that alcohol is more hazardous on water than on land because of the dangerous consequences it could result in. Different factors can affect a boat operator’s physical and mental abilities while on water. The factors that can affect a boat operator’s mental and physical abilities can include heat, sun, noise, water waves, wind, glare, motion of the boat, etc. If alcohol and drugs are added to these factors, one’s ability to safely operate a boat are extremely affected.

What are the Elements for a BUI?

Most state laws define boating under the influence as “operating a boat, vessel, or watercraft on a body of water while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” Some state laws provide that the blood alcohol level limit of a person who commits BUI is 0.08%. Some states have a higher B.A.C limit that is slightly higher at 0.1%. 

What are the Penalties for a BUI?

The penalties for operating a boat under the influence are very strict. These penalties can include:  

  • Large fines
  • Suspension or revocation of operator privileges
  • Possible jail term

How Can I Reduce the Risk of Being Arrested for BUI?

Because an operator of a boat is held liable for any injury or damage that is caused by negligence or recklessness, it is imperative to take boating precautions to minimize injury. The U.S. Coast Guard recommends these:

  • Have a sober designated boat driver
  • Take along a variety of drinks like water, iced tea or lemonade to keep you cool
  • If stopping for lunch and you plan on drinking, wait a reasonable time before resuming operation of the boat
  • Operate the boat safely since intoxicated passengers are likely to lose their balance
  • Not bring any alcohol at all

Do I Need the Assistance of a Lawyer if I Am Charged With a BUI?

Because there is concurrent jurisdiction between state and federal laws concerning BUIs, it is imperative to have a DUI/DWI lawyer to advise you of your rights and represent you in any criminal hearings.