We are all-too-familiar with driving under the influence (DUI), what with all the road mishaps and the injuries and fatalities they bring every year. But many do not know there are also laws against boating under the influence or BUI. Of course, not too many people own or drive boats, which is probably why awareness about BUIs is not that widespread. Nevertheless, learning the ins and outs of BUI is just as important, because roughly half of all deaths in boating accidents involve alcohol according to the U.S. Coast Guard, and you wouldn’t want to be caught up in one.
All 50 states have specific laws against BUI
Each state has legislation that covers boating under the influence. Penalties are mostly similar, but there are certain consequences for violators that may differ depending on the state.
Law enforcement sets up BUI checkpoints
So you’re boating a little farther out to sea, and you believe you can drink and drive a boat, and no one would be the wiser. This would be a huge mistake because BUI checkpoints in the water exist. Just like with DUI checkpoints, law enforcement officers have all the right to hail your boat and board it to test you for sobriety. There are even states that don’t require probable cause for law enforcement to board your boat.
The consequences of getting caught for a BUI
The BUI laws of all 50 states are similar in the sense that they all impose hefty fines for violators. Most of them also entail jail time. Some other penalties, however, vary from state to state. Rhode Island and South Carolina, for example, require completion of a boating safety course. In Arkansas and Colorado, a BUI conviction could also mean the loss of operating privileges. Stiffer still is the penalty meted upon BUIs in Alaska and California. Breach BUI laws there, and your driver’s license could also be affected. Illinois enforces tougher BUI penalties as getting arrested for a BUI could lead to a possible felony conviction.
Commit a BUI more than once, and you could face heavier penalties as a repeat offender. Arizona, which refers to its legislation about drunk driving a boat as OUI or operating under the influence, metes out harsh penalties for repeat offenders, particularly if convicted of “Aggravated OUI,” a felony charge that calls for mandatory jail time of at least four months.
A BUI conviction also means you could have a criminal record, which would appear even worse if you have caused injury or death while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Don’t drink and drive a boat
Considering the difficulty of handling watercraft, the presence of unpredictable waves, the unforgiving heat of the sun and other factors, boating by itself has enough risks attached to it. Ingesting alcohol can only multiply those risks not just for yourself, but for your passengers and other boat drivers as well. It’s always best to practice boating safety at all times, and saving the alcohol for later is one of the best ways to go about it.
Learn more about BUIs by checking out this infographic.