Alaska law prohibits operating a watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term “watercraft” means a “vessel used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water for recreational or commercial purposes.” (Alaska Stat. Ann. § 28.35.030 (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating under the influence (BUI), sometimes called "operating under the influence" or "OUI," for operating a watercraft while:
- under the influence of drugs or alcohol to an extent that “the use of the person’s physical or mental abilities is so impaired that he or she no longer has the ability to operate a vehicle with the caution characteristic of a person of ordinary prudence who is not under the influence,” or
- having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater.
(Alaska Stat. Ann. § 28.35.030 (2016); Gundersen v. Municipality of Anchorage, 762 P.2d 104 (1990).)
The consequences of an Alaska 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 Alaska DUI—are:
- First offense. A first-offense BUI generally carries 72 hours to one year in jail, $1,500 to $10,000 in fines, and at least a 90-day license suspension. First offenders are required to use ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on their vehicles for at least six months after license reinstatement.
- Second offense. A second-offense BUI generally carries 20 days to one year in jail, $3,000 to $10,000 in fines, and at least a one-year license suspension. Second offenders are required to use IIDs on their vehicles for at least 12 months after license reinstatement.
- Third offense. Most third-offense BUIs carry 60 days to one year in jail, $4,000 to $10,000 in fines, and at least a three-year license suspension. Third offenders are required to use IIDs on their vehicles for at least 18 months after license reinstatement.
- Third offense within ten years. If a boater’s two prior BUIs occurred within the ten-year period preceding the third offense, the third BUI will be a class C felony. Boaters convicted of a felony-third BUI face 120 days to five years imprisonment, $10,000 to $50,000 in fines, at least a 10-year license suspension, and 60 months of having to use an IID.
Generally, the judge must order all BUI offenders to complete the screening, evaluation, referral, and program requirements of an alcohol safety action program. And depending on the situation, boat forfeiture is also a possibility. (Alaska Stat. Ann. § § 28.15.181, 28.35.030, 12.55.035, 12.55.135, 12.55.125 (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 Alaska, 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.