The Consequences of Boating Under the Influence

by | Monday, June 16, 2014 | 0 comment(s)

Operating a vessel while intoxicated, sometimes referred to as boating under the influence (BUI), can bring stiff penalties and loss of privileges. It’s a serious offense that is strictly enforced, given the massive risks and dangers it imposes.

Alcohol is involved in roughly one-third of all boating fatalities, according to the USCG’s Boating Safety Resource Center. Each state has its own BUI legislation with distinct rules and applicable penalties. In addition, the USCG enforces BUI-related federal laws. No vessel is exempt from BUI laws – from a paddle boarder or rowboat to an oil barge operator or cruise ship captain.

State Penalties for Operating a Vessel While Intoxicated

Each state imposes its own penalties for BUI. For instance, in Iowa, if you are caught operating a vessel under the influence, your first offense will be a serious misdemeanor, punishable by 48 hours in jail, $1,000 fine, loss of boating privileges for a year and being assigned to substance abuse evaluation.

Penalties are affected by various factors such as:

  • blood-alcohol content level;
  • type of vessel (commercial vessels generally mean harsher penalties than recreational vessels);
  • number of BUI offenses the accused has on his or her record; and
  • surrounding circumstances (Was there an accident? Was anyone injured?).

You’ll want to research your state’s BUI laws to determine specifics that apply to you.

Federal BUI Regulations

Federal regulations for operating a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is detailed in Code of Federal Regulations chapter 33, part 95. The USCG will impose penalties on any vessel personnel if intoxication is confirmed.

Mariner employers are required under federal law to report any findings that a crew member is intoxicated while performing his or her maritime activities. Furthermore, mariners with USCG credentials are required to take periodic drug and alcohol tests.

If a mariner is guilty of boating under the influence, penalties can include fines and imprisonment, plus the loss of mariner credentials.

Other Ramifications for Operating Under the Influence

Operating a vessel while intoxicated endangers people’s lives and brings harsh penalties, including fines and jail time. These are reasons enough to avoid drinking while boating.

Another ramification of operating a commercial vessel while under the influence is that you can lose your job and significantly handicap your career. If you are found guilty, you could lose your mariner’s license, vessel privileges and most likely, your post.

Moreover, operating a vessel while intoxicated places legal liability on you. If someone is injured as the result of your negligence, you can be found liable for damages and face civil penalties. Mariner employers and vessel owners have a legal duty to assure their crew is compliant with federal drug and alcohol laws for vessels, according to 33 CFR § 95.050. Employers can be liable for their crew’s actions if they are intoxicated.

Stay Compliant with Marine Regulations

The best way to have safe and fruitful expeditions, reduce the risk of accidents and avoid legal penalties is simply to stay compliant with the law and avoid boating under the influence. For more mariner-related articles, visit My Vessel Logs blog. 

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