Can You Get Arrested for Drinking on a Boat? Boating Under the Influence

by LegalFix
Posted: August 8, 2023
boating under influence (BUI)

Picture this: a serene lake, the sun setting on the horizon, and a group of friends ready to embark on a boating adventure. The atmosphere is relaxed, and it's tempting to crack open a cold beer or sip on a refreshing cocktail while enjoying the ride. But what happens when alcohol consumption goes beyond leisurely indulgence and enters the realm of boating under the influence?

What Counts as Boating Under the Influence?

Before we delve into the specifics of boating under the influence, let's clarify some terminology. You may have come across terms like BUI, DUI, and OUI, and wondered if they all refer to the same thing. The answer is both yes and no.


Boating under the influence refers to operating a watercraft while impaired by alcohol or drugs. Just like driving under the influence (DUI) or operating under the influence (OUI), it is a serious offense that poses significant risks to everyone involved. But what does it really mean to be under the influence while operating a boat?

“Boating under the influence” specifically pertains to operating a watercraft while impaired by alcohol or drugs. It focuses on the unique circumstances of boating, but the consequences can be just as severe as those associated with DUI or OUI.

On the other hand, driving under the influence (DUI)—sometimes called driving while intoxicated (DWI)—stands for driving under the influence. It applies to operating a motor vehicle, such as a car, while impaired by alcohol or drugs. The laws and penalties for DUI vary from state to state, but the underlying principle remains the same: Driving under the influence endangers lives and is strictly prohibited.

OUI, or operating under the influence, is a term used in some states to refer to the impaired operation of a vehicle, including boats. Although the terminology may differ, the essence remains unchanged – the focus is on preventing individuals from operating any type of vehicle while under the influence.

Can You Actually Get Arrested for Boating Under the Influence?

Now that we have a clear understanding of the terminology, let's address a common question: Can you actually get arrested for boating under the influence? The answer is a resounding yes. Boating under the influence is a serious offense that carries legal consequences.

The laws surrounding boating under the influence vary from state to state, but the underlying principle is consistent – operating a boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs is illegal and punishable. Similar to DUI and OUI, boating under the influence can result in fines, license suspension, and even imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense and any prior convictions.

In the eyes of the law, boating under the influence not only endangers the person operating the boat but also puts passengers, other boaters, and even swimmers at risk. Alcohol impairs judgment, reaction time, and coordination, all of which are crucial for safe boating. 

It’s also worth noting that, even if you are not boating under the influence, you can still get in trouble for drinking on your boat. Many state and municipal governments have regulations around where alcohol may be consumed. This means that unless you’re boating on a privately-owned body of water, you may be subject to public consumption and intoxication laws. 

Know the Laws with LegalFix

To navigate the complex waters of boating under the influence, it is essential to have a solid understanding of the laws that govern these offenses. Whether you want to avoid being stopped for boating under the influence or just want a better understanding of how our legal system works, LegalFix is your source for free legal information. You can find helpful articles and use the free search and information tools to better understand the state and federal laws that affect you. Just visit our website to find all this content — and check back often for more valuable legal products and services coming soon.