Boating Under the Influence
Every Pennsylvania resident knows there are laws against drinking and driving a motor vehicle. But there are also strict laws in the Commonwealth against boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, there are five separate classifications of BUI under Pennsylvania law, each with their own set of criminal penalties.
Boating while impaired by alcohol (alcohol-impairment BUI).
An alcohol-impairment-BUI involves boating after drinking enough alcohol to be "rendered incapable of safely operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft."
A first offense for an alcohol-impairment BUI carries a maximum jail term of six months and a $300 fine. A second offense is considered a third-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania, which also carries a possible six-month jail term and a fine of up to $2,500. A third offense is a second-degree misdemeanor and may lead to a prison term of two years and a $5,000 fine. All of these penalty levels are enhanced if the BUI results in property damage or death or serious injury to another person.
Boating with a BAC of between .08% and .1% ("per se" BUI).
A per se BUI involves boating with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08% but less than .1%.
Per se BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor starting with the first offense. The charge is elevated to a second-degree misdemeanor in subsequent cases.
Boating with a BAC of between .1% and .16% ("high-rate-of-alcohol" BUI).
A high-rate-of-alcohol BUI involves boating with a BAC of at least .1% but less than .16%.
A first offense is a third-degree misdemeanor that carries an automatic 48-hour jail term. A second offense carries a mandatory jail term of between 30 days and six months, and 90 days to five years in the event of a third offense.
Boating with a BAC of .16% or more ("highest-rate-of-alcohol" BUI).
A highest-rate-of-alcohol BUI involves boating with a BAC of .16% or greater.
The minimum jail term for a first offense is 72 hours in jail. A second-offense is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 to $10,000 in fines. A third offense constitutes a first-degree misdemeanor and a prison term of between one and five years, in addition to a possible fine.
Boating under the influence of drugs (drug BUI).
A drug BUI involves boating with any concentration of a controlled substance in your blood or while under the influence of controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and controlled substances. A boater is "under the influence" if the substance or combination of substances ingested "impairs the individual's ability to safely operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft."
A first offense for BUI carries a maximum jail term of six months. A second-offense is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 to $10,000 in fines; and a third-offense is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between one and five years in jail and $2,500 and $10,000 in fines.
In addition, all boaters convicted of a BUI offense must complete a state-approved boating safety course.
Boating Safety Tips
To avoid being caught in a legal situation that could affect not only your own safety, but that of friends, family, and other boaters, remember the following:
- Be extra careful on major holiday weekends. The weekends of Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are considered the deadliest weekends both on the water and on the road for accidents involving alcohol. Take extra care to use defensive boat operating skills during these weekends, and be aware that local law enforcement officials will step up their efforts to identify boaters who are under the influence.
- Know your local boating regulations. If you trailer your boat to another state, or to Canada, read and clearly understand what the local regulations say about open containers of alcohol in a boat and BUI laws.
- Make sure that you and all passengers on the boat wear life vests. Because alcohol, combined with the elements, can impair your balance, wearing a life vest is a good idea. Most states also have laws requiring children to wear life vests at all times while on a boat.
If you or someone you know has been charged with Boating Under the Influence, an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a world of a difference for your BUI charge, the penalties you receive, and the way your case is handled. You can reach Peter or Rachel Olszewski via phone at 570-346-2600 for a free consultation.