Washington D.C.’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws

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

Washington D.C. has laws prohibiting operating a watercraft while “impaired” or “under the influence” of drugs or alcohol. The term “watercraft” means a “means a boat, ship, or other craft used for water transportation, as well as water skis, an aquaplane, a sailboard, or a similar vessel.” (D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2206.01(23) (2016).)

A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a watercraft while:

  • impaired by drugs or alcohol to a degree that "person’s ability to operate or be in physical control of a vehicle is affected, due to consumption of alcohol or a drug or a combination thereof, in a way that can be perceived or noticed,” or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.

And a boater can alternatively be convicted of boating while impaired (BWI)—an offense with lesser penalties than those for BUI—for operating a watercraft while impaired, as described above. (Taylor v. D.C., 49 A.3d 1259 (2012); D.C. Code Ann. §§ 50-2206.01(9), 50-2206.31, 50-2206.33 (2016).)

Penalties

The consequences of a BUI or BWI depend on the circumstances of the offense and whether the boater has prior BUI or BWI convictions. For determining whether a BUI or BWI is a second or subsequent offense, generally, only prior convictions within the past 15 years count. However, the 15 years is measured from when the later of the “term of incarceration, supervised release, parole, or probation [for the prior offense] ceased or expired.” (D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2206.01(17) (2016).)

BUI Penalties

The consequences of a first, second, and third BUI are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BUI generally carries $1,000 in fines and/or up to 180 days in jail.
  • Second offense. A second-offense BUI generally carries $2,500 to $5,000 in fines and/or up to one year in jail.
  • Third offense. A third-offense BUI generally carries $2,500 to $10,000 in fines and/or up to a year in jail.

(D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2206.32 (2016).)

BWI Penalties

The consequences of a first, second, and third BWI are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BWI generally carries $250 in fines and/or up to 30 days in jail.
  • Second offense. A second-offense BWI generally carries up to $2,500 in fines and/or a maximum of 180 days in jail.
  • Third offense. A third-offense BWI generally carries $2,500 to $5,000 in fines and/or up to a year in jail.

(D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2206.34 (2016).)

BUI With Minor Passengers

If a BUI or BWI offender had minor passengers in the boat at the time of the offense, additional penalties apply. For each minor passenger, the judge must impose $500 to $1,000 in fines and five days in jail. (D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2206.36 (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 the District of Columbia, 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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