Enforcement of Boating Under Influence

Law enforcement officials view boating under the influence more or less the same way they view driving under the influence when it comes to enforcing laws and preventing such behavior.

The power to pass BUI laws for waters that are solely under a state’s jurisdiction is left entirely up to the state. The laws are enforced by both the state and the Coast Guard. This is especially the case in state waters that also fall under the category of United Sates jurisdiction. For these waters, there is concurrent jurisdiction, which means that if a boater is arrested or cited under Federal law in these waters, the Coast Guard requests that the state law enforcement officers take the offender into custody.

Laws regarding boating under the influence vary from state to state. In most states, a BUI conviction leads to punishments similar to those handed down to drunk drivers. Some common repercussions of a BUI conviction include jail time, fines, required attendance at lengthy alcohol education programs, boating safety classes with an additional alcohol education component, and community service or hard labor. In most cases, a conviction results in the suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges.

To deter operators from violating boating laws, both the Coast Guard and the state police monitor boating areas. The officers especially focus on areas that are particularly popular, known as “party” boating areas.

Law enforcement officials are on the lookout for people who drive boats erratically and recklessly. When a possible offender is spotted, the officials often ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests and to take a chemical test to determine if he or she has been drinking.

The Coast Guard ensures that the vessel of a drunk boater is brought to shore. Under some circumstances, the Coast Guard may choose to arrest the operator, detain him or her until sober, or turn the person over to state or local authorities.

States may use BUI convictions as “priorables” for the purposes of future driving under the influence cases. If a person is cited for boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol within a determined period of time (usually five to ten years), and the person is cited for driving under the influence on land, the DUI is considered to be the person’s second offense. This rule applies even if the driver has never had a land citation before.