Pennsylvania BUI Penalties

Learn about the consequences of being convicted of boating under the influence (BUI) in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to operate a motorboat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. However, Pennsylvania has five classifications of boating under the influence (BUI) that carry different penalties:

  • alcohol-impairment BUI
  • “per se” BUI
  • “high-rate-of-alcohol” BUI
  • “highest-rate-of-alcohol” BUI, and
  • drug BUI. 

(Pennsylvania’s Boating Under the Influence Laws explains how the offenses differ.) Also, the consequences of any conviction are typically enhanced if the offense involved an accident where someone was seriously injured or killed.

Below is an overview of the possibility penalties for various boating-under-the-influence offenses.

Alcohol-Impairment BUIs

The consequences for a first, second, and third alcohol-impairment BUI are:

  • First offense. A first-offense alcohol-impairment BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor. For most convictions, there’s a maximum six-month jail sentence, minimum six-month term of probation, and a $300 fine. However, where the first offense involves injuries or death to another or damage to another’s property, there’s also a minimum 48-hour jail sentence and an increased fine ranging from $500 to $5,000.
  • Second offense. A second-offense alcohol-impairment BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor. Most second convictions carry five days to six months in jail and $300 to $2,500 in fines. However, where the second offense involves injuries or death to another or damage to another’s property, there’s also a minimum 30-day jail sentence and an increased fine ranging from $750 to $5,000.
  • Third offense. Most third-offense alcohol-impairment BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors and carry between ten days and two years in jail and $500 to $5,000 in fines. However, where the third offense involves injuries or death to another or damage to another’s property, it will be a first-degree misdemeanor and carry between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 to $10,000 in fines.

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

Per Se BUIs

The consequences for a first, second, and third per se BUI are:

  • First offense. A first-offense per se BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum six-month jail sentence, minimum six-month term of probation, and a $300 fine.
  • Second offense. A second-offense per se BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries five days to six months in jail and $300 to $2,500 in fines.
  • Third offense. A third-offense per se BUI is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries between ten days and two years in jail and $500 to $5,000 in fines.

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

High-Rate-of-Alcohol BUIs

The consequences for a first, second, and third high-rate-of-alcohol BUI are:

  • First offense. A first-offense high-rate-of-alcohol BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries between 48 hours and six months in jail and from $500 to $5,000 in fines.
  • Second offense. A second-offense high-rate-of-alcohol BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries between 30 days and six months in jail and $750 to $5,000 in fines.
  • Third offense. A third-offense high-rate-of-alcohol BUI is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 and $10,000 in fines.

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

Highest-Rate-of-Alcohol and Drug BUIs

Pennsylvania imposes the same penalties for highest-rate-of-alcohol and drug BUIs. The consequences for a first, second, and third offense are:

  • First offense. A first-offense highest-rate-of-alcohol or drug BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries between 72 hours and six months in jail and from $1,000 to $5,000 in fines.
  • Second offense. A second-offense highest-rate-of-alcohol or drug BUI is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 to $10,000 in fines.
  • Third offense. A third-offense highest-rate-of-alcohol or drug BUI is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between one and five years in jail and $2,500 and $10,000 in fines.

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

BUI Aggravated Assault and Homicide

A BUI offender who causes serious bodily injury to another person can be charged with aggravated assault by watercraft while operating under the influence. The offense is a second-degree felony and carries up ten years in prison and a maximum of $25,000 in fines. (30 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5502.3 (2016).)

Where a boater causes the death of another person while operating a watercraft under the influence, the prosecution can charge the offender with BUI homicide, a second-degree felony. An offender convicted of BUI homicide generally faces between three and ten years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. However, the minimum prison sentence is increased if more than one victim died. (30 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5502.1 (2016).)

Boater Safety Courses

All boaters convicted of a BUI offense must complete a state-approved boating safety course. (30 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5103(k)(2) (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.

Get in Touch With a Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested for boating under the influence or any other crime, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney. Pennsylvania BUI law is complicated, and the facts of every case are different. An experienced BUI attorney should be able to tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case.

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