Ah, there’s nothing quite like open waters and the salty spray of sea air on your face. As the weather warms up again, you may be hankering for that very experience — especially if you own a boat. Or, perhaps you’re just looking to rent one for a nice day out with friends and family. You’ve got your snacks, your lifejackets, your bottles of water, and — probably — some beverages of the more “adult” variety. After all, it’s a boat, right? Your own private island, away from prying eyes. Who cares if you imbibe a little?
Well, the law cares. The law cares quite a lot. See, as fun and relaxing as a drink-friendly boat party sounds, you can’t exactly just let loose and enjoy with zero consequences. A boat is still a vehicle, which means there are still rules and regulations for its operator that, really, you should know.
DUI and BUI: In the same boat
Ba dum dum.
Usually, when people think about DUIs and DWIs, they think about cars and trucks and maybe motorcycles. However, even though the laws themselves are a bit different (called BUI/BWI), boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is just as illegal, and can have consequences that are just as severe. Understanding that, and how the law works in general, can save you from a pretty sticky situation.
In Maryland, the legal blood alcohol content limit for boaters is .08%, which means anything at that level or higher puts you in law-breaking territory. Now, you may be wondering why they care. After all, it’s probably not likely you’ll hit another boat, whereas road-dwelling vehicles are almost always in close proximity to each other. At worst, you think, you may make some interesting waves as you try to steer back to shore.
Not quite. Being on a boat is a unique and challenging environment, even aside from the fact that you’re on unforgiving and unfeeling water and therefore completely at Mother Nature’s mercy. Environmental factors such as the sun, the breeze, waves, and even the vibrating engine itself can make anyone dangerously sleepy, and alcohol would only make it worse. Not only that, but if you or any passengers find themselves full of liquid courage, you may be tempted to make less-than-safe decisions that could possibly end with a person overboard. Aside from the obvious fear of drowning, you have razor-sharp propellors that can, have, and will take a life.
This isn’t uncommon. Half of boating accidents are alcohol-related, in fact, and falls overboard are a major cause of the resulting deaths. So this means that, yes, it can happen to you too. No matter how seasoned of a boater you are, it’s still dangerous to do so drunk.
Penalties to know for drunk boating convictions
There are a lot. BUIs and BWIs each have their own consequences, with the latter typically seeing the less-severe results. Both, however, can be expensive and life-changing and therefore both should be treated seriously, by you and by the attorney you find to fight them.
For BUIs, which refers to specifically being under the influence of alcohol, the possible charges are as follows:
- First offense. This misdemeanor can set you back $1,000 in fines and put you in prison for a year.
- Second offense. Still a misdemeanor, but now the consequences are doubled — $2,000 fines and up to 2 years in prison.
- Third offense. You guessed it: $3,000 as a fine and up to 3 years in prison. This is also still a misdemeanor, but as you can see, that doesn’t mean you’re not facing a lot of trouble.
Regardless of which number offense it is, if your BUI allegedly caused life-threatening injuries to another person, you could be fined $5,000 alongside the previously stated 3 year imprisonment. BUI homicide, or when alcohol-influenced boating results in the death of another, is where you see a felony charge. That being said, the fine for it is still $5,000, but now your imprisonment is up to 5 years.
Now, let’s take a look at BWIs, which involves boating under the influence of either alcohol or any drugs to the point of being impaired:
- First offense. Unlike a BUI, the maximum fine is about $500 and you’re only looking at two months in jail. Please still don’t do it.
- Second/subsequent offense. Now you’re on the same level as a first offense BUI, so that’s $1,000 fine and a year in prison.
BWIs that cause life-threatening injuries to another face up to 2 years in prison and fines up to $3,000.
Drug BWIs that cause life-threatening injuries actually match the penalty for BUIs in the same situation, which is $5,000 in fines and 3 years in prison. This is also the same if the injuries result in someone dying, but that death will take the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.
This is a comprehensive list, but not an exhaustive one. There are other charges you may be facing and other penalties the court could incur (such as the suspension or loss of your boating license). As you can see, it’s a fairly in-depth and complicated menu and, should you ever find yourself looking at it first-hand, that is when you need to get legal help.
Here in Maryland, Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, is just that help. No matter the circumstances, one of our skilled BUI/BWI and DUI/DWI attorneys can go over the details of your case and work out the best course of action to keep you protected, with offices in Annapolis and Ellicott City. For more information, call us today at 410-271-1892 or fill out our contact form.
And remember — Keep Calm and Call Drew!