Delaware’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

Read about the consequences of boating under the influence (BUI) in Delaware.

Delaware law prohibits operating, having command of, or being in actual physical control of a vessel or boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term “vessel” means “every device in, upon or by which any person may be transported upon the water excepting devices moved by human power.” (Del. Code Ann. tit. 23, § 2301(f) (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel or boat while:

  • impaired by drugs or alcohol to such a degree that the boater is “less able than the person would ordinarily have been, either mentally or physically, to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the operation of a vessel or boat,” or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

(Del. Code Ann. tit. 23, §§ 2301(g), 2302(a) (2016).)

BUI Penalties

The consequences of a Delaware BUI depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BUI generally is a misdemeanor and carries $200 to $1,000 in fines and/or 60 days to six months in jail. And if there was a passenger in the boat under 17 years old, there’s an additional $200 to $1,000 in fines, and the convicted boater must do at least 40 hours of community service.
  • Second offense. A second-offense BUI generally is a misdemeanor and carries $500 to $2,000 in fines and 60 days to 18 months in jail. And if there was a passenger in the boat under 17 years old, there’s an additional $500 to $2,000 in fines, and the convicted boater must do at least 80 hours of community service.
  • Third offense. A third-offense BUI is generally a class G felony and carries $1,000 to $3,000 in fines and three months to two years in jail. And if there was a passenger in the boat under 17 years old, there’s an additional $1,000 to $4,000 in fines, and the convicted boater must do at least 160 hours of community service.

For purposes of determining whether a BUI is a second or subsequent offense, typically only prior BUIs that occurred within the past five years count. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 23, §§ 2301(g), 2305 (2016).)

In addition to the other penalties, anyone convicted of a second or subsequent offense must complete a substance-abuse education or rehabilitation program. (Del. Code Ann. tit. 23, § 2305(8) (2016).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence in Delaware, get in contact with an experienced BUI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A good BUI attorney should be able to explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on your best course of action.

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