Alabama’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws

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

Alabama law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a vessel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Generally, the term “vessel” includes “[e]very description of watercraft, other than a seaplane, capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water.” (Ala. Code § 33-5-3(1) (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a vessel while:

  • under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance “to a degree which renders him or her incapable of safely” operating a vessel, or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

(Ala. Code §§ 32-5A-191, 32-5A-191.3 (2016).)

BUI Penalties

The consequences of an Alabama BUI depend on the circumstances of the case. But generally, a BUI is a class A misdemeanor, and the possible penalties—which are the same as those for an Alabama DUI—are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BUI carries up to one year in jail and/or $600 to $2,100 in fines. Convicted boaters typically also face a 90-day boating privilege suspension.
  • Second offense. Where a BUI offender has a prior BUI conviction that occurred within five years of the current violation, the second offense carries up to one year in jail and $1,100 to $5,100 in fines. Judges must sentence second offenders to a minimum five days in jail or at least 30 days of community service. Convicted boaters typically also face a one-year boating privilege suspension. 
  • Third offense. Where a BUI offender has at least two prior BUI convictions—regardless of how long ago the priors occurred—the third offense carries 60 days to one year in jail and $2,100 to $10,100 in fines. Convicted boaters typically also face a three-year boating privilege suspension.

If a BUI offender had a passenger under 14 years old or BAC of .15% or greater, the judge must impose at least double the normal penalties for the offense. (Ala. Code § 32-5A-191 (2016).)

BUIs Involving Injuries or Death

BUI offenders who cause accidents where someone suffers “serious physical injury” or is killed can face felony charges. The possible penalties for these types of BUI offenses are:

  • BUI involving serious injury. A BUI offender who causes serious physical injury to another can be convicted of “assault in the first degree,” a class B felony. The offense generally carries two to 20 year in prison and up to $30,000 in fines.
  • BUI involving death. A BUI offender who causes the death of another person can be convicted of “criminally negligent homicide,” a class C felony. The offense generally carries one year and one day to 10 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. (Strangely, the penalties are less than those for a BUI involving serious physical injuries to another.)

(Ala. Code §§ 13A-5-6, 13A-5-11, 13A-6-4, 13A-6-20 (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.

Talk to an Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with boating under the influence in Alabama, 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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