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Boating Under the Influence

Pennsylvania has hundreds of miles of navigable waters and over 300,000 registered boats. The Commonwealth also had almost $2 billion in retail alcohol sales in 2011. When you put these statistics together, you can understand why state authorities consider boating under the influence (BUI) a problem.

In 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that for the 12 million registered recreational vessels across the country, there were 4,588 boating accidents resulting in:

  • 758 fatalities
  • 3,081 injuries
  • $52 million dollars of property damage

Pennsylvania is among the top ten states for fatal boating accidents. Although alcohol was the sixth leading cause of boating accidents, it is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

According to Pennsylvania law, boating — like driving a car — is illegal if you are under the influence of alcohol. If a Waterways Conservation Officer has a reasonable suspicion that you are boating under the influence, you may be requested to submit to a Breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test.

If you refuse to submit to the test, your refusal can be used as evidence against you. You can lose your boating privileges for a year. If you are caught operating a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol (.08% blood alcohol content or more) you could potentially face fines or imprisonment as well. Depending on the circumstances, you might also be charged with reckless or negligent operation of a boat, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness or under-age drinking.

Drinking alcohol is heavily promoted as a leisure activity that goes hand-in-hand with fishing and boating. However, many boaters fail to recall that after they are done boating, they still need to drive home and BUI can then become DUI.

If you or a family member faces charges related to BUI/DUI, contact a criminal defense lawyer experienced in this area of the law, today.

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