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Boating Under the Influence

Posted on in DUI

Santa Cruz DUI attorneySummer is the favorite season for a large percentage of Americans. With summer comes longer days, time off from school, and a schedule often unlike from the rest of the year. In response to the rise in temperatures, many seek to beat the heat by spending their days relaxing by a body of water. It may be likely that you will find yourself on a boat, lazily floating, soaking up the sunshine, fishing or even playing like you were a teenager again. Amidst the summertime fun, alcohol is frequently involved. It is important to understand how a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) could arise from a day on the water. 

Boating Under the Influence

The act of boating under the influence occurs when an individual consumes enough alcohol to impair their ability to operate his or her boat safely. It is also known as boating DUI, BUI, DUI boating, or drunk boating. Although boating is the name of the charge, the vehicle in question does not necessarily need to be just a boat. This law pertains to any motorized watercraft, including but not limited to:

  • Boats;
  • Jet skis;
  • Wet bikes;
  • Surf jets;
  • Miniature speedboats;
  • Airboats; and
  • Hovercraft.

In short, boating under the influence may encompass anything that is operated by a motor to propel a person, or persons, through the water. The individual may be sitting, kneeling, standing, astride, or behind the vehicle. While each vehicle is intended to bring joy to those who use it, there are certain elements of danger associated with any vessel, potentially to the driver/operator and those in the vicinity. When you add in the use of drugs or alcohol, the hazards are exponentially increased. To combat preventable injuries, California, along with many other states, has made it illegal to operate anything that travels on water (lake, river, or ocean) while under the influence, limiting blood alcohol level to below 0.08 percent. Anyone who operates any vehicle on the water or roads at or above this legal limit are subject to criminal prosecution and penalties.


The consequences of being convicted of boating under the influence are very similar to those of driving under the influence, but they are not identical. Penalties for boating while intoxicated may include, for a first offense:

  • Up to a $1,000 fine;
  • Up to six months imprisonment; and
  • Possible suspension or revocation of your driver’s license for up to five years.

Just like with driving, there is implied consent when you are operating a boat on the waterways. This means you agree to submit to sobriety testing when requested by law enforcement personnel.

Charges of boating under the influence may leave you unsure of what to do. Having a conviction of this on your criminal record can lead to harsher punishments in future cases. It also may affect your personal goals and life plans. Choosing the right attorney can make a world of difference in the outcome of your case.

Attorney John W. Thornton has almost 30 years of experience with cases just like yours and will honestly and effectively fight for your rights. If you are interested in speaking with a skilled Santa Cruz, CA criminal defense attorney, contact us today at 831-426-5800 or 831-566-4357 for a free consultation.



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