Maryland’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

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

Maryland law prohibits operating or attempting to operate a vessel while under the influence of or impaired by drugs or alcohol. The term “vessel” means “every description of watercraft, including an ice boat but not including a seaplane, that is used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water or ice.” (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 8-701(s)(1) (2016).)

Maryland has two general classifications of boating under the influence:

  • Boating under the influence (BUI). A person can be convicted of a BUI for operating a vessel while “under the influence” of alcohol. Maryland’s BUI statute doesn’t define “under the influence.” But when a boater had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater, the court presumes that the boater was under the influence.
  • Boating while impaired (BWI). A person can be convicted of a BWI for operating a vessel while “so far impaired by any drug, combination of drugs, or combination of one or more drugs and alcohol that the person cannot operate a vessel safely.”

(Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 8-738(a) (2016).)


The penalties for a Maryland BUI depend on a number of factors, including:

  • the offense classification (BUI or BWI)
  • the existence of prior BUI or BWI convictions, and
  • whether there was an accident involving life threatening injuries or death to another.

In general, the penalties for a BUI are more severe than those for a BWI conviction. But the consequences for both types of convictions often include fines and jail time. For instance, a first-offense BUI is a misdemeanor and carries up to one year in jail and/or $1,000 in fines. A first BWI, on the other hand, is also a misdemeanor, but convicted boaters face only a maximum two months in jail and $500 in fines. (Md. Code Ann., Nat. Res. § 8-738 (2016).)

Our “Maryland BUI/BWI Penalties” article has a more complete discussion of BUI and BWI penalties, including those for repeated offenses and BUI accidents involving injuries or death.


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 Contact with a BUI Attorney

Maryland 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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