Operating any vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants is dangerous, which is why all states have not only drunk driving laws, but also drunk boating laws. All states have laws that criminalize operating a watercraft while intoxicated or under the influence of intoxicants, but these laws often differ significantly from state to state.
Boating under the influence (BUI) generally prohibition the operation of any motor-powered watercraft (such as a speedboat or jet ski) while under the influence of an intoxicant. However, the BUI laws of some states also apply to watercraft that don't have motors, like rowboats.
A BUI can result from both drugs and alcohol use, though alcohol is most commonly involved. For purposes of BUI charges, “drugs” include both legal and illegal substances. For example, you can be charged with a BUI if you operate a speedboat while on cocaine, but also while you are under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter drugs that impair your ability to operate the vessel.
As with DUI charges, you can be convicted of a BUI based on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or being actually impaired by drugs or alcohol.
For example, you can be convicted of a BUI in most states if you have a BAC of .08% or more, even if you never engage in any dangerous activity while operating the boat. And, even if you have a BAC that's lower than the legal limit, you can still be arrested for and convicted of a BUI if your ability to operate the vessel was impaired as the result of drugs or alcohol.
A BUI conviction might carry fines, jail or prison time, and restrictions on the ability to operate a watercraft. The circumstances of each case, as well as the laws of the state in which it is charged, will determine whether the crime is a misdemeanor or felony, as well as what penalties are possible. Here is some general information about specific BUI penalties:
In some states, DUI and BUI convictions are both considered prior convictions if you're later convicted of a subsequent offense. So, if you get a DUI and then get a BUI a year later, the BUI will be punished as a second offense in some states.
A charge of boating under the influence is not something you should face without legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney. BUI charges can lead to some very serious consequences. An experienced attorney can help you decide on the best course of action for your particular situation.