Many people love to enjoy a sunny day on the water boating and sharing a few alcoholic beverages with friends and family. While most people know that they cannot drink and drive, many fail to recognize that the same laws apply to boating in most states. For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, you can get charged with a BUI (boating under the influence). Although this charge is a misdemeanor, it can still have serious consequences – such as hefty fines and jail time. While the details of each law differ in every state, they all have rules forbidding operating a motor vehicle while impaired. Keep reading to find out how the law impacts operating a boat while intoxicated.

boat in the water

Why is it Dangerous? 

Although, driving or riding in a boat while drinking alcohol may seem like it is lower risk than driving under the influence, boating while intoxicated can actually be more dangerous than drinking and driving. Similarly to drinking and driving, drinking while on a boat can increase your risk of death in a multitude of ways. Alcohol impairs judgment, vision, balance, and coordination – all important factors for driving or riding on a boat. For example, someone with a high BAC (blood alcohol content) is more likely to fall overboard due to alcohol causing one to feel dizzy. Once that person is overboard, their chances of drowning are higher. Since alcohol diminishes one’s mind and reduces an individual’s reaction time, the ability to rescue oneself is weakened, and in cold water, there is a greater risk of hypothermia. All of these factors make drinking and operating or riding in a boat incredibly dangerous.

Penalties if Caught Boating while Drinking: 

In the state of Pennsylvania, the charge of operating a watercraft under the influence is different from a DUI but still carries significant penalties. Boating under the Influence is separated into three tiers of penalties. The higher a person’s blood alcohol level, the higher the penalty tier and the more severe the consequences. The legal team at JD Law warns that a BUI can come with steep monetary fines and jail time – regardless of tier. The first offense for the various tiers of boating under the influence are listed below: 

  • Tier 1 (BAC less than .10): 
    • First Offense: Six months probation; fine of $300 
  • Tier 2 (BAC of .10 to .16): 
    • First Offense: Mandatory minimum of 48 hours incarceration; fine of $500 to $5000 
  • Tier 3 (BAC greater than .16): 
    • First Offense: Mandatory minimum of 72 hours incarceration; fine of $2500 to $10,000 

Spending time boating is a great way to enjoy time with family and friends However, boating under the influence can put you and your fellow passengers’ lives at risk, as well as other boaters. To avoid receiving a BUI or endangering another, it is best to avoid drinking alcohol while on a boat and practice boat safety