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Can You Get a DUI on a Boat?

Can You Get a DUI on a Boat?

So, you’re on a boat. You’re bragging to all your friends, posting Instagrams of you on the open seas, and soaking up rays. You may even be having a party day on your boat with friends, drinking and laughing as you sail across the water. We understand — being on a boat is a lot of fun, but only if you stay safe. You want to be able to keep your right to boat brag, which will be difficult if you’re arrested for a DUI on a boat.

Driving under the influence is not exclusively reserved for cars. You can receive a DUI on a boat, and for operating a golf cart, bicycle, and other vehicle types if you are over the legal limit. Unsurprisingly, driving a boat while intoxicated is illegal in all 50 states. The legal limit varies by state, but is typically .08 percent. (Some states including Wyoming, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Missouri, and Mississippi have a limit of .1 percent.)

Boat safety is very important, as many accidents can occur while on the water. Even sober boaters struggle with safety conditions, especially if they are newer to boating. A DUI on a boat, or boating under the influence, is sometimes referred to as BUI. The consequences for BUI are similar to those for any alcohol-related driving offense.

Who Monitors for DUIs on a Boat?

Bodies of water are typically regulated by a combination of law enforcement and government agencies. The Coast Guard is a US military branch tasked with maintaining maritime security. They also assist in search and rescue efforts. Many states also have local law enforcement agencies that monitor coastlines and the water itself.

Additionally, many states have a department similar to the Department of Motor Vehicles that handles rules and regulations for boating licenses and fines. Sometimes, the consequences may be federal, depending on the body of water where the BUI occurs.

Law enforcement officials can set up BUI checkpoints on the water, just as they do on the road. Additionally, officials patrolling the water may summon boats they feel are driving erratically.

What Happens if I Get Caught Boating While Intoxicated?

Many people enjoy a day on the water with friends, drinking and relaxing. They may feel more secure about driving after a few drinks, because the water feels vast and is much less crowded than the road. But the US Coast Guard has reported that boating while intoxicated is responsible for almost a fourth of all boating fatalities.

It’s dangerous, and officials take it seriously. Here’s what might happen if you decide to drink and get behind the wheel of your boat:

  • You can be pulled over: Law enforcement officials (bodies of water may be patrolled by federal or state authorities) will pull over anyone they suspect of driving erratically. Sometimes, other factors may be the cause, like heat exhaustion or illness.
  • Standard testing if alcohol is suspected: officials may board the boat if they suspect alcohol and drugs are a factor, and may perform a field sobriety test or test BAC using a breathalyzer.
  • Arrest if over the legal limit: anyone found to be over the legal limit will be arrested and legal proceedings will follow.
  • Financial penalties: there may be a fine associated with your actions, and your insurance may be impacted.
  • Suspended boating license: your boating license can be suspended or revoked. For commercial boat drivers, this can impact your livelihood.
  • May impact drivers license: a DUI on a boat may also cause your (automotive) driver’s license to be revoked or suspended.
  • Potential felony on record: Because it takes place in the water, which can potentially be under federal jurisdiction, some BUIs may be considered a felony, which would make convicted offenders unable to vote and can create other hardships.

To avoid the worst consequences of a DUI on a boat, take safety precautions. Don’t drink before or during a boating excursion, or have a sober driver to handle that responsibility. Make sure everyone on board is wearing life vests, and ensure there is shade and plenty of potable water to prevent sun stroke. An attorney can help you if you are caught for BUI, and will assist you through the court proceedings. Intoxalock partners with many reliable DUI attorneys who can help.



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