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Boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs – is it similar to DUI?

On Behalf of | Apr 5, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Motorboats may be powered by engines just like any other automobile, but that’s where the similarities end. Powered vessels handle much more differently on the water than cars on the road. There’s also the matter of the open waters, where boats only have to worry about colliding with other vessels and the occasional reef – nothing like the twists, turns and distractions of roads.

Although motorboats may handle differently than cars, some rules that apply to operating motor vehicles also apply to boating. Take, for instance, the rules on driving under the influence (DUI). In the same way Kentucky prohibits persons from driving while drunk, the state also prohibits the operation of motorboats and similar other vessels while intoxicated.

So, how are the rules for intoxicated boating different from DUI?

The same legal limits apply to boating

According to Kentucky law, persons are prohibited from operating any motorboat, water ski, surfboard or similar device while intoxicated by either alcohol or any impairing substance. For a boater to face charges for boating under the influence (BUI), their blood/breath alcohol concentration level upon submitting to a chemical test must be at least .08 – the same level for drivers facing DUIs. Boaters are also subject to implied consent laws facing DUIs. Boaters are also subject to similar implied consent laws; refusing a chemical test is an aggravating circumstance that prosecutors can use against the boater in court.

But the penalties for BUI are different

A boater convicted of violating Kentucky’s BUI laws doesn’t face the same penalties for DUI. Instead, the court treats BUI as a separate offense, and offenders face a different set of punishments. The possible sentence a boater faces depends on the number of prior BUI convictions they have:

  • First BUI offense: Up to $250 in fines and 24 hours of imprisonment on conviction.
  • Second BUI offense: Up to $500 in fines and 48 hours of imprisonment on conviction.
  • Third BUI offense: Up to $1,000 in fines and 30 days of imprisonment on conviction.

In addition to these penalties, a court may order the boater to take a safe boating course as part of their sentence.

If you face charges for BUI, don’t expect a court procedure similar to a DUI case. A legal professional with criminal defense experience may be able to explain how state law applies to your case, no matter how unusual it is, and help you decide on your defense options.