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Drinking and Boating: What You Should Know About BUI

Did you know that there are over 16 million recreational boats in the United States?

With so many boat owners getting ready for summer fun it’s important everyone is in the know of how to stay safe and out of trouble.

Many don’t realize that there are strict laws in most states when it comes to drinking and boating. Keep reading for more information about BUI (Boating Under the Influence).

Drinking and Boating 411

Depending on where you’re boating this summer each state has its own laws and regulations when it comes to boating and being under the influence. Normally the laws follow whatever the states DUI laws are.

If you find yourself in trouble this summer while you’re out on your boat make sure to call a criminal defense lawyer with experience, to help you navigate during these difficult times.


If you weren’t aware, driving a boat while you’re intoxicated is subject to high fines. Depending on where you live these can be as little as $1,000 or as high as $5,000. Boating under the influence is considered a federal offense.

It’s bad enough you will be charged with a ton of fines and run the risk of losing your boating license, but you will also end up with a record and worst-case scenario also serve time in jail. 


Most accidents on a boat involve alcohol which is why states are becoming more strict with boating under the influence. It’s bad enough to put yourself at risk but you’re also putting your passengers at risk and other boaters enjoying the water.

Something else to keep in mind is that if your passengers are intoxicated you also run the risk of having accidents with them. They might accidentally fall out of your boat or have an accident while on board.

Even worst if they decide to go for a swim they might make a bad judgment call when swimming near the boat propeller.

Two Types of Boating Under the Influence (BUI’s)

There are two different types of BUI. 

There is boating under the influence that’s proof of impairment. There’s also boating under the influence that is based on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

In almost all 50 states you can get a BUI with a BAC of .08% or higher. Wyoming and North Dakota have a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of .1%.

American Boating Association

In 2016 the American Boating Association reported that there were almost 4,500 boating accidents and over 700 deaths. In fatal boating accidents, alcohol was the number one factor and contributor.

Those that have a BAC level of .1% or higher are ten times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than those that are not under the influence and completely sober.

Water “Roads”

Something that makes drinking while boating even more dangerous is that unlike highways there are no marked roads with lines. The captain has to be aware of currents, tide changes, other boaters, sea-life, and the weather just to name a few.

If a person is intoxicated they might not use their best judgment when it comes to moving or “switching lanes” while another boater is nearby or heading their way.

Alcohol Education Class

Some states might make it a requirement for you to go to a substance abuse treatment program after being charged with boating under the influence. Others states might require for you to complete an alcohol education class.

This varies depending on the state that you’re found guilty of breaking their boating laws.

Risk Losing Your Boat

Another factor to take into consideration before you decide to drink while boating is that if you’re found guilty you might not only lose your license, serve time in jail, have fines, but you might also lose your boat.

They might take your boat away, sell it, or impound it. Make sure you rethink drinking while you’re driving your boat so that you don’t experience a ton of regret for irresponsible decisions.


If you have been enjoying less expensive insurance on your boat this can change if you’re involved in an accident due to drinking and driving while on the water. Your insurance company will raise your rates or you run the risk of shopping for a new insurance carrier.

They might decide that it’s too much of a risk to insure you and cancel your policy.

Driving Record

You might not realize that if you’re charged with boating under the influence and you’re caught or involved in an accident your driving record is going to be affected. Unless you have a lawyer that helps your case get dismissed you can lose your driving privileges for a certain amount of time if not forever.

This depends on the state and the gravity of the situation. Keep in mind that this will tie in with affecting your insurance in the future as well. A person with a ruined driving record will find themselves paying higher premium insurance rates.

Safe Boating

With the weather warming up and summer right around the corner, it’s important to have fun — responsibly. There is no need to give yourself extra headaches with drinking and boating this summer while you’re out enjoying time with friends and family. 

Now that you know all about the consequences and seriousness of boating under the influence you are equipped to make smart decisions. Acting responsibly will ensure that you can have fun all summer and for years to come.

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