You probably already know about the dangers of operating an automobile while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. However, what you might not know is that alcohol is even more dangerous on water, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. State governments across the country, in landlocked jurisdictions as well as maritime states like Florida, recognize the fact that alcohol or drugs are a factor in over half of all boating accidents. That is why every state has laws against boating under the influence, also known as BUI.

You may assume that the laws against boating under the influence are similar to those that prohibit and punish driving under the influence. To a certain extent, you are correct. However, the laws that govern BUI also have features that distinguish them.

How is BUI is similar to DUI?

Just as authorities sometimes set up DUI checkpoints along the roads within their jurisdiction, law enforcement officers may set up BUI checkpoints on the water. If authorities have reason to believe that you may be operating a water vessel while under the influence, regardless of whether or not you passed a checkpoint, they may pull you over just as law enforcement officials on land might pull over your car.

In Florida, the minimum blood alcohol level allowed on the water is the same as on land, i.e., 0.08%. This, however, can vary from state to state. In some states, your BAC would have to be 0.1% before authorities could charge you with BUI.

What types of vessels to BUI laws apply to?

You can incur a BUI when operating a yacht, fishing boat or personal watercraft. However, you can also face BUI charges while operating a nonmotorized vessel, such as a sailboat or a sailboard.

What are the potential consequences for BUI?

The consequences of BUI conviction can be extremely serious. As with DUI, you may face misdemeanor or felony BUI charges depending on the seriousness of the offense. BUI can result in either suspension or revocation of your boating license. You may also have a criminal record that can affect your penalties in the event of a subsequent DUI conviction.