Summer is here.  It’s time to hit the beaches and lakes for fun in the sun.  With both options offering boating, fishing, swimming, water-skiing, houseboating, and other activities, there’s plenty to choose from to get away from your busy life and enjoy the outdoors. It’s no secret that people across the globe partake in alcoholic beverages while boating.  What’s the big deal, right?  Wrong!  Boating under the influence (BUI) can come with some pretty hefty consequences.  Wondering what the consequences are for boating under the influence?  Keep reading.

Impaired Judgment Leads to More Accidents.

While “boating under the influence” of alcohol was not considered dangerous some years ago, the increasing number of boating accidents tells us another tale.  A report issued by the State of California Department of Boating and Waterways confirms that  intoxicated boaters have caused serious accidents, many of which resulted in property damage, injuries, and death.  What many boaters don’t realize is that the effects of alcohol can be more pronounced when they are operating a vessel rather than a vehicle.

The dangers associated with driving a boat are greatly intensified when alcohol is mixed with factors such as engine noise, sun, dehydration, wave action, temperature, glare, vibration, and wind.  Alcohols act as a depressant.   Depressants tend to reduce  depth perception, balance, coordination, concentration, and reaction time.  After a few drinks boaters tend to experience impaired judgment and become overconfident.  This typically creates opportunities for the boater to take unusual risks.

For example, take the story of a Copperopolis man boating under the influence on Lake Tulloch.  While operating his 30-foot cigar boat the man crashed into an inner tube carrying two females.  He faced 13 years in prison for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol causing great bodily injury and special allegations inflicting great bodily injury by causing a victim to become comatose.

Other examples include:

  • A water sports enthusiast consuming multiple alcoholic beverages, resulting in a BAC of .09, immediately before steering a motorboat.
  • A commercial ship captain casually drinks beers with other workers, and continues to operate the boat, despite having a .06 BAC.

Ramifications of Boating Under the Influence

According to California Harbors and Navigation Code Section 655, “no person shall operate any vessel while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and drug.” The blood alcohol content limit is .04 for operating a boat or water vessel, which is lower than the standard .08 for driving.

California does not have an “open container” law for boats as it does for other vehicles; however, it is just as illegal to boat under the influence of alcohol as it is to drive a car while intoxicated. The legal consequences of BUI include:

  • Up to one year in jail,
  • Up to a $1,000 fine, or
  • both

If you injure someone else, you may be charged with a felony, and you could face up to one year in prison and a fine up to $5,000.  If you kill another person while boating under the influence, you face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.

Over 150 local and state agencies enforce California boating laws.  Due to the large increase in intoxicated boat operators, authorities have increased their efforts to reduce boating accidents associated with alcohol use throughout the state.  So boaters beware.

If you or anyone you know have been arrested and don’t know what to do, we are here to help.  Contact us at (209) 661-7585 or