Michigan’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

Read about the consequences 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.

(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 324.80176 (2016).)


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

  • the offense classification (BUI or BWVI)
  • the existence of prior BUI or BWVI convictions
  • whether there was an accident involving serious injury or death to another, and
  • whether the offender had a passenger under the age of 16.

(Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § § 324.80177, 324.80178, 324.80178b, 324.80186 (2016).)

In general, the penalties for a BUI are slightly more severe than those for a BWVI conviction. And the consequences of a conviction are typically enhanced if the boater has prior convictions, was involved in an accident, or had a passenger under the age of 16.

Our “Michigan BUI/BWVI Penalties” article has a more complete discussion of BUI and BWVI 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

Michigan 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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