An F.A.Q. on BUI – Boating Under the Influence

Often times in the world of alcohol-related offenses, attention is highly focused on DUI’s and DWI’s – and rightly so. However, there is a lesser-known offense called “Boating Under the Influence,” meaning that you can also be arrested for operating a watercraft while intoxicated.

Boating Under the Influence – Minnesota Law

The consequences of boating while drunk are just as perilous. Just like driving-related alcohol crimes, they can lead to heavy court costs, restrictions and more. More alarming, however, is that boating while drunk can be just as deadly. In 2011, a report from USA TODAY cited U.S. Coast Guard statistics showing that 19% of water-related fatalities were attributed to the use of alcohol on a national scale.

And with the weather heating up and more Minnesotans taking to the state’s many lakes, we thought we’d take the time to answer a few questions regarding boating under the influence, otherwise known as BUI’s.

Q: What watercrafts can get you a BUI?

A: The law varies state-to-state. Generally, however, a boater operating a watercraft that has a motor can get a BUI. Typically exempt are watercrafts like kayaks, rowboats and canoes.

Q: How are BUI investigations carried out? And by whom?

A: You’d be surprised how similar BUI investigations are to more common DUI investigations. In Minnesota, the state’s Department of Natural Resources along with other authorities are in charge of enforcing BUI laws. You’ll be pulled over and asked to submit to a field sobriety test.

Q: How common are BUI’s?

A: While they’re definitely not as common as DUI’s, BUI’s are probably a bit more common than you’d expect. Every year in late June, a number of law enforcement bodies participate in “Operation Dry Water,” a national campaign to crack down on drunk boating. And in 2012 alone, a total of 158 people were arrested throughout the year for boating while intoxicated in Minnesota, according to a report from KSTP.com

Q: What alcohol-blood level will get you charged?

A: To get a BUI, the defendant’s alcohol level usually needs to be at least .08 – the same level used in DUI arrests.

Q: What are the legal consequences?

A: The legal consequences of a first-time BUI are the same as getting a first-time DUI. A defendant faces heavy fines (up to $1 thousand) and perhaps even jail time. Unlike DUI’s, however, BUI’s won’t result in a driver’s license suspension. But they will cost you water privileges as you could be banned from operating a boat for a number of months.

Q: What legal recourses do you have to fight a BUI charge?

A: Of course, the best recourse is to never boat while drunk if the first place. However, if you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation of getting a BUI, hiring an experienced defense lawyer is always your best route.