Pennsylvania’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws

Read about Pennsylvania BUI law and consequences of a conviction.

Pennsylvania law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Pennsylvania has several classifications of boating under the influence (BUI):

  • Boating while impaired by alcohol (alcohol-impairment BUI). An alcohol-impairment-BUI involves boating after drinking enough alcohol to be “rendered incapable of safely operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft.”
  • Boating with a BAC of between .08% and .1% (“per se” BUI). A per se BUI involves boating with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08% but less than .1%.
  • Boating with a BAC of between .1% and .16% (“high-rate-of-alcohol” BUI). A high-rate-of-alcohol BUI involves boating with a BAC of at least .1% but less than .16%.
  • Boating with a BAC of .16% or more (“highest-rate-of-alcohol” BUI). A highest-rate-of-alcohol BUI involves boating with a BAC of .16% or greater.
  • Boating under the influence of drugs (drug BUI). A drug BUI involves boating with any concentration of a controlled substance in your blood or while under the influence of controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and controlled substances. A boater is “under the influence” if the substance or combination of substances ingested “impairs the individual’s ability to safely operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft.”

(30 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5502 (2016).)

Penalties

The penalties of a Pennsylvania BUI conviction depend on the circumstances of the case. But generally, the possible consequences vary based on:

  • the classification of the offense,
  • the number of prior BUI convictions the boater has, and
  • whether there was an accident where someone was seriously injured or killed.

A BUI conviction often carries fines and jail time. For instance, boaters convicted of a second-offense per se BUI face five days to six months in jail and $300 to $2,500 in fines. (30 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5502 (2016).)

For a more thorough discussion of possible penalties, see Pennsylvania BUI Penalties.

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, get in touch with an attorney who has BUI experience. Pennsylvania BUI law is complicated, and the facts of each case are different. A qualified attorney should be able to tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case. 

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