Boating Under the Influence (BUI) FAQs
Q: Can law enforcement pull me over in my boat, just like in a DUI
A: Yes, state and federal law enforcement officials can pull a boat operator over on suspicion that the operator is driving a boat while under the influence, just like they can when you are driving a car.
Law enforcement officials may also set up checkpoints on the water, just like roadside DUI checkpoints, to question and check boat operators for Boating Under the Influence ('BUI'). Some states do not even require 'probable cause' for law enforcement officials to be able to board your boat. In Delaware, they can just do it.
Even if they don't charge you with violating federal laws prohibiting boating while intoxicated, federal authorities like the U.S. Coast Guard can also hold and transfer you to state authorities for additional prosecution.
Q: Can I lose my boating license or permit from a BUI
A: Perhaps. It depends on your state's boating regulations and other laws. A lawyer can help you with this important question.
Q: Do many people have criminal convictions for boating while
A: Yes, and with more states focusing on BWI violations, the number doesn't appear likely to decrease.
Q: Do I have to go to jail for a BWI conviction, or do i only have to
pay a fine?
A: The answer depends on your state's boating and criminal laws, the particular violations that you are accused of, and the legal penalties for a particular conviction.
Q: Do I have to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test?
A: Check with a lawyer. If you don't know, it might be wise to politely decline. Doing so in some states like Pennsylvania, however, could result in an automatic suspension of your boating privileges. In other states like Florida, your license cannot be automatically suspended for refusing to submit to a BAC test.
Q: Can I be subjected to a field sobriety test?
A: Probably. State authorities may ask you to 'walk and turn,' recite a particular phrase, or other tasks. The general purpose of these tests is to help determine if you are able to perform basic functions required to safely operate a boat or other watercraft.
Q: Even if I'm convicted, can't I just perform 'community
A: Probably not. Many states require people convicted of BUI offenses to attend mandatory boater education classes, as well as alcohol and drug counseling. If this you are convicted of a criminal offense, you will have a criminal record. Depending on the severity of the conviction (i.e., if it is a felony or misdemeanor), you could face severe legal consequences and restrictions.