Depending on the laws of your state, a person is generally considered to be legally intoxicated if they have a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) of 0.08% or 0.10%. When a person operates a motor vehicle after drinking alcohol or taking drugs that impair their senses, they may face many legal ramifications, such as getting:

While a person who has been charged with drunk driving generally only receives a misdemeanor for their first offense, they can still be charged with a felony if they have injured another person or caused damage to property. They may also face felony charges if it was not their first drunk driving offense.

It is important to note that while most states will charge a drunk driver with a DUI, every state has their own set of criteria for what is considered to be a drunk driving offense. Each state also has different varieties of the potential charges that may apply. Drunk driving is more than a simple traffic citation; it is considered to be a criminal offense. As such, if you are convicted of a drunk driving offense, it will appear on your criminal record.

If a police officer suspects that a person is driving drunk, they will have probable cause to pull that person over. This can occur under many different circumstances, such as when they see that a person is speeding or swerving all over the road, or if they observe alcohol or drug paraphernalia in the vehicle.

After a driver is pulled over, the officer will likely request that they step out of the vehicle in order to take one of the following tests to determine whether they are sober:

  • Breathalyzer: This is a handheld device that measures the concentration of alcohol in a person’s system by having them blow into the device. This specific test can be administered either at the scene where the vehicle was pulled over, or at a police station;
  • Blood or Urine Testing: Blood or urine testing is more complicated, as it requires a medical professional to do the testing and produce lab results. Additionally, the police will need to first obtain a warrant before conducting blood or urine testing. As such, this test is not generally administered at the scene; or
  • Field Sobriety Tests: These tests are commonly given at the scene, and include a variety of different activities that are designed to test a person’s balance and agility. Examples include touching a finger to your nose, reciting the alphabet, or standing on one foot while counting.

If the driver fails any of these tests, the officer will have legal grounds to ticket and arrest them for drunk driving. If a person refuses to perform any of the tests that can be administered at the scene, the police officer can still arrest them if they suspect that the driver has been driving drunk.

It is important to note that things such as the smell of alcohol on a person’s breath, or from open containers in the car even when they are empty, can be used as evidence that a police officer may rely on in order to arrest someone for drunk driving.

Can I Get A DUI While Operating A Water Or Air Craft?

In short, yes, you can get a DUI while operating a water or aircraft while under the influence of an intoxicant. Boating under the influence is covered under the Harbor and Navigation Codes of each state, and flying under the influence is covered under the Federal Aviation Administration.

Both pilots of aircraft and operators of boats are subject to implied consent laws, similar to the rules governing vehicles on the ground. Implied consent means that a pilot who is arrested for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs must submit to a chemical test upon request.

While every state has some form of DUI or DWI law that addresses driving while drunk, state laws might not be as clear regarding operating a watercraft or an aircraft while under the influence. An example of this would be how the state DUI statute may only use the word “motor vehicle,” which does not clarify whether that includes a boat, jet ski, private plane, etc.

In most jurisdictions, DUI laws apply to water and aircrafts in a similar manner to automobiles. What this means is that if you are caught operating such vehicles while your blood alcohol level is above a certain level, anywhere from 0.08-0.10%, you could face DUI charges.

Many DUI statutes follow the language that is used in the Uniform Vehicle Code, which uses the term “motor vehicle.” In these states, the exact definition of motor vehicle may be up to interpretation. However, many states specifically list which types of motor vehicles are subject to drunk driving regulations.

Interpreting state laws generally considers whether the state includes air and water crafts in their definition of “vehicle,” as well as how the state applies the definition in their DUI laws.

Some examples of how different each state’s DUI laws may be include:

  • Alaska: Uses the language, “motor vehicle, or a watercraft or aircraft”;
  • Georgia: Uses the term “any moving vehicle,” which would include water and air crafts;
  • Ohio: “Any vehicle, trackless trolley, or streetcar”;
  • Virginia: “Any motor vehicle, train, or engine, which includes mopeds;
  • Delaware: Clearly states that its DUI statute is applicable to “any vehicle,” “any moped,” and “any off-highway vehicle”;
  • Louisiana: “Any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel” or “other means of conveyance”;
  • Virginia: “Motor vehicle” includes such vehicles as mopeds; and
  • Vermont: “Vehicle” also includes snowmobiles.

Some states, such as Texas, have especially precise definitions for each type of vehicle. An example of this would be how in Texas, “automobile” might include motorcycles; however, “motor vehicles” does not cover motor boats.

Additionally, the application of DUI and/or DWI laws can vary not only according to the type of vehicle, but many other factors, such as:

  • Whether the vehicle is being operated on public vs. private highways or waters. This is because some states penalize drunk driving even in private areas; and
  • Whether the water or aircraft is being used for recreational vs. commercial use, as legal standards are generally stricter for commercial use of vehicles.

Are There Legal Penalties For DUI For Water And Aircrafts?

Penalties for DUI charges involving water or aircrafts largely depend on:

  • The state you were charged in;
  • If you are convicted under state or federal laws; and
  • Whether you are receiving a misdemeanor or a felony.

Being convicted of DUI for water or aircrafts will result in similar penalties to vehicle DUI charges. Examples include:

  • Jail Time: Exact sentence depends on the dangerousness of the DUI event, as well as the history of associated behavior;
  • Fines: Generally a minimum of $2000, depending on jurisdiction; and/or
  • Community Service: While most commonly set by individual judges, this sentence may be subject to state regulations.

Penalties may also include:

  • Administrative license suspension and/or revocation;
  • Mandatory alcohol education and/or assessment and treatment;
  • Boat or aircraft impounding or confiscation;
  • Loss of aircraft or boat license; and/or
  • Suspension of aircraft or watercraft.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Help Understanding DUI Laws For Water And Aircrafts?

If you are being charged with a DUI for water and/or aircrafts, you should consult with a DUI/DWI lawyer. Your attorney can help you understand your state’s specific laws regarding the matter, as well as how your legal rights and options will be affected by those laws. Additionally, your lawyer will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.