Michigan's Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Laws and Penalties

Read about the consequences—including jail and fines—of boating under the influence (BUI) in Michigan.

Michigan law prohibits operating a motorboat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Michigan 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 motorboat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater, with any amount of a controlled in the blood, or while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol to an extent that the person is “substantially deprived of normal control or clarity of mind.”
  • Boating while visibly impaired (BWVI). A person can be convicted of a BWVI for operating a motorboat while “visibly impaired” by drugs and/or alcohol.

BUI Penalties

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

  • First offense. A first-offense BUI is a misdemeanor and carries one or more of the following: up to 45 days of community service, a maximum of 93 days in jail, and fines ranging from $100 to $500. Also, the court can suspend the offender’s privilege to operate a motorboat for one to two years.
  • Second offense. If a BUI offender has a prior BUI or BWVI conviction that occurred within the past seven years, the second offense will be a misdemeanor and carry from $200 to $1,000 in fines. The court also must sentence the offender to either ten to 90 days community service and up to one year in jail (option one) or 48 hours to one year in jail and up to 90 days community service (option two). And the court must suspend the offender’s privilege to operate a motorboat for at least two years.
  • Third offense. If a BUI offender has two or more prior BUI or BWVI convictions—regardless of how long ago they occurred—the third or subsequence offense will be a felony and carry one year to five years in jail and/or $500 to $5,000 in fines. If the offender has two more priors within the past ten years, the court must suspend the offender’s privilege to operate a motorboat indefinitely. However, if the offender has two or more priors but one or none within the past ten years, the court either can suspend the boater’s operating privilege for one to two years (no priors within seven years) or must suspend the boater’s operating privilege for at least two years (one prior within seven years).

BWVI Penalties

The consequences for a first, second, and third BWVI are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BWVI is a misdemeanor and carries one or more of the following: up to 45 days of community service, a maximum of 93 days in jail, and a maximum fine of $300. Also, the court can suspend the offender’s privilege to operate a motorboat for six months to one year.
  • Second offense. If a BWVI offender has a prior BWVI or BUI conviction that occurred within the past seven years, the second offense will be a misdemeanor and carry from $200 to $1,000 in fines. The court also must sentence the offender to either ten to 90 days community service and up to one year in jail (option one) or a maximum of one year in jail and up to 90 days community service (option two). And the court must suspend the offender’s privilege to operate a motorboat for one to two years.
  • Third offense. If a BWVI offender has two or more prior BWVI or BUI convictions—regardless of how long ago they occurred—the third or subsequence offense will be a misdemeanor and carry $200 to $1,000 in fines. The court also must sentence the offender to either ten to 90 days community service and up to one year in jail (option one) or a maximum of one year in jail and up to 90 days community service (option two). If the offender has two more priors within the past ten years, the court must suspend the offender’s privilege to operate a motorboat indefinitely. However, if the offender has two or more priors but one or none within the past ten years, the court either can suspend the boater’s operating privilege for six months to one year (no priors within seven years) or must suspend the boater’s operating privilege for one to two years (one prior within seven years).

Penalties for BUI with a Passenger Under 16

The consequences for a first, second, and third BUI or BWVI where the operator had a passenger under 16 years old are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BUI/BWVI with a passenger under 16 years old is a misdemeanor and carries $200 to $1,000 in fines. The court also must sentence the offender to either five days to one year in jail or 30 to 90 days of community service.
  • Second offense. If a person who is convicted of a BUI/BWVI with a passenger under 16 years old has a prior BWVI or BUI conviction that occurred within the past seven years, the second offense will be a felony and carry from $500 to $5,000 in fines. The court also must sentence the offender to either one to five years in prison (option one) or 30 days to one year in jail and 60 to 180 days of community service (option two).
  • Third offense. If a person who is convicted of a BUI/BWVI with a passenger under 16 years old has two or more prior BWVI or BUI convictions—regardless of when they occurred—the third or subsequent offense will be a felony and carry from $500 to $5,000 in fines. The court also must sentence the offender to either one to five years in prison (option one) or 30 days to one year in jail and 60 to 180 days of community service (option two).

BUIs Involving Injuries or Death

An offender who causes “serious impairment of a body function of another person” while operating a motorboat under the influence is guilty of a felony and faces a prison sentence of up to five year and/or fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.

Where a boater causes the death of another person while operating a motorboat under the influence, the offense is a felony and carries up to 15 years in prison and/or fines from $2,500 to $10,000.

For boaters convicted of a BUI involving serious impairment or death, the law requires an indefinite suspension of the person’s privilege to operate a motorboat.

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