California DUI Boating

(Boating Under the Influence of Alcohol)

Also known as boating under the influence, boating DUI, BUI, DUI boating, or drunk boating, boating under the influence can happen in a lake, a river, or on the ocean. Operating a boat or any watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (at or above a blood-alcohol concentration, or BAC of .08%) is much like driving a vehicle while under the influence: it is a criminal offense in the state of California.

The Harbors and Navigation Code does not bar passengers or the operator of a boat or watercraft from drinking alcohol or carrying open containers in the vessel. Aside from this fact, a BUI offense is almost identical to the California Vehicle Code's explanation of operating a car or truck with a BAC at or above .08%. The details of the regulation can be found in California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 655:

(b) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug. (c) No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood. (d) No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood.

The symptoms that primarily attract officers to the boats, and the procedures that follow are very similar to DUI cases. Such symptoms include:

  • Speeding
  • Right-of-way violations
  • Equipment violations (life preservers or navigation lights)
  • Lack of current visible registration
  • Erratic driving of the watercraft

The procedures the officers will conduct include preliminary questioning, field sobriety tests, and chemical testing (breath or blood).

Section 655.4(a) of the Harbors and Navigation Code states:

"No person shall serve as a crew member on any charter boat while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, or the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and any drug.

The consequences and defenses for a BUI are much like those of a DUI, however they are not identical. In short, fines, a jail sentence and probation will ensue. (Refer to California Harbors and Navigation Code section 655) Also, a lesser offense with lighter punishments is a possibility for plea bargaining.

One key fact to note: a conviction for DUID is "priorable". In other words, if you are charged with a DUI in the future (the following 10 years), a DUID will be regarded as a prior conviction. This means that if you are arrested sometime between now and 10 years from now, the court will view you as a repeat offender. The consequences for a second offense are much harsher that those of a first offense.

Back to Top