DWI Boating Laws

The crime of driving while intoxicated, known as a DWI or a DUI (driving under the influence) is often thought of in regards to operating a car, truck, or motorcycle. These laws, however, refer to the operation of any type of motor vehicle, including boats. DWI boating laws have gotten stricter, just as other DWI laws have in recent times. DWI boating laws consider it a crime to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. DWI boating laws are enforced by both state and federal authorities. The federally regulated laws apply to any body of water that runs through more than one state and includes the oceans on the East and West coast of the United States. The Coast guard works in conjunction with state jurisdictions to prosecute DWI boating laws in much the same manner.

DWI boating laws were enacted in 1988 to help curb instances where boat operators driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol because of the increased risks for boating accidents. Every year, approximately eight hundred people die in boating accidents, a higher number than those killed in airplane or train accidents combined. Approximately half of all of these fatalities occur when alcohol is involved. Approximately sixty thousand non-fatal boating accidents occur each year. The Coast Guard estimates that this costs at least two hundred and forty million dollars in property damages every year.

DWI boating laws are similar to other DWI laws. The point at which it is considered illegal to operate a boat is when an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is registered at .08 percent (in some places the cut-off is .05 percent) or when the boat operator is unable to safely control the boat. DWI boating laws allow the crime of boating under the influence (sometimes known as a BUI) to be tried in the civil or criminal court system depending on the location of the incident its specific circumstances. When the Coast Guard (or other waterway authority) deems an individual impaired by drugs or alcohol the boating trip may be terminated. Depending on the circumstances, the operator may be detained until they are sober or the operator may be turned over to local or state authorities.

Under federal DWI boating laws, the crime is punishable by fines, imprisonment, and possible loss of boating privileges. DWI civil penalties may entail a fine of up to one thousand dollars. In a criminal court, DWI boating laws entail that a person convicted of operating a boat under the influence can be fined between five hundred to seven thousand five hundred dollars, face imprisonment of up to two years, and may lose boating privileges for up to twelve months. If fatalities are involved the fine is set between two thousand five hundred to fifteen thousand dollars, with between three and seven years imprisonment possible. DWI boating laws do allow for some strong DWI defense points and strategies that may help to lower penalties in DWI boating cases. DWI boating law attorneys specialize in helping DWI defendants in their legal cases.