New Hampshire’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

Read about New Hampshire BUI (boating under the influence) law and the consequences of a conviction.

New Hampshire law prohibits operating or attempting to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The law applies to the operation of “every type of watercraft used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water”—not just motorboats. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 265-A:1(II) (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) for operating a boat while:

  • under the influence of—meaning “impaired to any degree” by—drugs, alcohol, or any other intoxicating substance, or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater (.02% or more for boaters under 21 years old).

(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 265-A:2(II) (2016); State v. Kelley, 159 N.H. 449 (2009).)

“Aggravated” BUI

New Hampshire law also specifies a number aggravating factors that can increase the consequences of a BUI conviction. A BUI becomes an “aggravated” offense when a person operates or attempts to operate a boat while under the influence or with an illegal BAC and:

  • exceeds the speed limit by more than 30 miles per hour 
  • causes a collision resulting in “serious bodily injury” to another
  • attempts to elude a pursuing law enforcement officer by increasing speed, extinguishing headlamps, or abandoning the boat, or
  • has a passenger under the age of 16.

A boat can also be convicted of an aggravated BUI for operating or attempting to operate a vehicle with a BAC of .16% or more. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 265-A:3 (2016).)

BUI Penalties

The possible consequences of a New Hampshire BUI conviction depend on a number of factors, including:

  • the classification of the offense (standard BUI or aggravated)
  • whether the offender has prior BUI or DUI convictions, and
  • whether anyone was injured or killed.

However, BUI penalties might include fines, license suspension, jail time, and having to complete safety courses and substance abuse treatment. For instance, a standard first-offense BUI is a class B misdemeanor and carries $500 to $1,200 in fines, a boating privilege suspension of one year, and a three-month to two-year driver’s license suspension. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 265-A:18(I), 265-A:19 (2016).)

Our "New Hampshire BUI Penalties" article has a more comprehensive discussion of the possible penalties, including those for repeat and aggravated BUI offenses.

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

New Hampshire BUI law is complicated, and the facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for boating under the influence, get in touch with an experienced BUI lawyer. A qualified attorney can 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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