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Boating & DUI DWI Law

When you think of DWI law, also known as DUI law, you probably think of people getting pulled over for driving a car, truck, or motorcycle while drunk. But did you know that you could be charged with a DWI when operating a boat?

Every state has DWI laws that make it illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated. If you have been charged with DWI while operating a boat, you will want to set up consultations with DWI attorneys who have experience handling boating while intoxicated cases.

What is a Vehicle?

What exactly constitutes a vehicle varies from state to state. Roadway vehicles such as cars and trucks are included in this definition, and, usually, so are other modes of transportation such as boats and planes. Where state legislatures have not specified what a vehicle is, judges have interpreted the law to include watercraft and aircraft.

For example, under Georgia DWI law, a vehicle is defined as "any moving vehicle." In Ohio, a vehicle is defined as "any vehicle, streetcar or trackless trolley." Louisiana's law is especially specific, citing "any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel or other means of conveyance" as a vehicle.

At other times, states have enacted an entirely separate DWI law to cover special vehicles, such as boats.

It's important to talk to your attorney to understand how your state defines a vehicle and to determine which law applies to your DWI case.

Boating & DWI Law

If you are caught operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will be arrested and charged with a DWI under the relevant state statute. In some jurisdictions, this crime is referred to as boating under the influence or BUI.

Both state and federal authorities can arrest you for violating DWI boating laws. Specifically, federal officials, particularly the Coast Guard, have authority when a body of water runs through more than one state. This includes the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean as well as major bodies of water such as the Great Lakes or Mississippi River.

Across the country, if your blood-alcohol level is .08 or above while operating a car, you will be arrested for driving while intoxicated. In many areas of the country, this same threshold applies to operating a boat; however, in some areas this threshold is as low as .05.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence

Under DWI law, the penalties for boating under the influence can range from temporary detainment to jail time.

The following are some DWI penalties you may receive for boating under the influence:

  • Alcohol counseling
  • Fines
  • Boating safety classes
  • Community service
  • Loss of boating privileges
  • Loss of driver's license
  • Jail time

In some circumstances, being arrested for boating under the influence can directly impact you if you are later arrested for committing DWI on land. Depending on how much time has passed between the two offenses, your land-based DWI may be treated as a second offense, which can result in even harsher penalties.