Find the right lawyer now

Understanding DUI Laws for Water and Air Crafts | LegalMatch Law Library

Find a Local Criminal Lawyer near You

Can I Get a DUI Operating a Water or Air Craft?

Yes. Boating or flying an aircraft while intoxicated can still get you a DUI. Boating under the information is covered under the Harbor and Navigation Codes of each state and flying under the information is covered under the Federal Aviation Administration. 

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

What are the DUI Laws for Water or Air Crafts?

It’s pretty much common knowledge that driving a car or motorcycle while drunk will lead to legal penalties. Every state has some form of DUI or DWI law that addresses driving while drunk. 

On the other hand, state laws might not be as clear when it comes to operating a watercraft or an aircraft while under the influence. For example, the state DUI statute may only use the word “motor vehicle”- which doesn’t tell you if that means a boat, jet ski, a private plane, etc.

In most jurisdictions, DUI laws apply to water and aircrafts in a similar manner to normal automobiles. That is, 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. 

What are Some Examples of DUI Laws for Water/Air Crafts?

Many DUI statues follow the language used in the Uniform Vehicle Code, which uses the term “motor vehicle”. In such 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 usually involves two aspects: 

  1. Whether the state includes air and water crafts in their definition of “vehicle”, and
  2. How the state applies the definition in their DUI laws. 

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how different each state’s DUI laws may be:

  • 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” (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
  • Vermont: “Vehicle” also includes snowmobiles

Some states like Texas have very precise definitions for each type of vehicle, which may make DUI claims somewhat complex. For example, in Texas, “automobile” might include motorcycles, but “motor vehicles” does not cover motor boats. 

Thus, you may have to check the different terms that each drunk driving statute uses in order to fully understand the rules in your area.

What are Some Other Factors to Consider with DUI Laws?

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

  • Whether the vehicle is being operated on public vs. private highways or waters (some states penalize drunk driving even in private areas)
  • Whether the water or air craft is being used for recreational vs. commercial use (standards are usually stricter for commercial use of vehicles)

What are the Penalties for DUI Charges Involving Water or Air Crafts?

Penalties for DUI charges involving water or aircrafts depend on the state you were charged in and if you are convicted under state or federal laws and whether you got a misdemeanor or felony. Being convicted of DUI for water or aircrafts will result in similar penalties to normal DUI charges like: 

  • Jail Time: amount of time depends on dangerousness of DUI event and history of behavior
  • Fines: typically a minimum of $2000 or more depending on jurisdiction
  • Community Service: typically set by individual judges although may be subject to state regulations
  • Administrative license suspension and/or revocation
  • Mandatory alcohol education and/or assessment/treatment
  • Boat or aircraft impounding or confiscation
  • Loss of aircraft or boat license
  • Suspension of aircraft or boat

Do I Need a Lawyer for DUI Charges Involving Water or Air Crafts?

As you can see, DUI laws can be very complicated when it comes to watercrafts or aircrafts.  If you have concerns regarding the evidence used in your DUI case, you may wish to consult with a criminal defense lawyer for advice. Evidence is very technical in nature, and is best addressed through the expertise of an attorney.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 01-19-2018 01:15 PM PST

Law Library Disclaimer
  • No fee to present your case
  • Choose from lawyers in your area
  • A 100% confidential service
What is LegalMatch?

We've helped more than 4 million clients find the right lawyer – for free. Present your case online in minutes. LegalMatch matches you to pre-screened lawyers in your city or county based on the specifics of your case. Within 24 hours experienced local lawyers review it and evaluate if you have a solid case. If so, attorneys respond with an offer to represent you that includes a full attorney profile with details on their fee structure, background, and ratings by other LegalMatch users so you can decide if they're the right lawyer for you.