Nevada's Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Laws and Penalties

Read about Nevada’s boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws and the consequences of a conviction.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

In addition to it's DUI laws, Nevada has laws that make it illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This article explains Nevada's boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws and the penalties you'll face for a BWI conviction.

Nevada's Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) Law

Nevada law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a vessel "under power or sail" while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person can be convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) (sometimes called "BUI" for "boating under the influence") for operating a vessel while:

  • impaired by alcohol, a controlled or intoxicating substance to a "degree that renders [the] person incapable of safely operating or exercising actual physical control of a vessel"
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .1% or greater within two hours of operating the vessel (.08% or greater for offenses involving death or serious injuries), or
  • having a prohibited concentration of certain drugs—including marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and PCP—in the body.

In other words, a Nevada DWI conviction can be based on actual impairment or the concentration of alcohol or drugs in the boater's system.

Nevada's Boating Under the Influence Penalties

The consequences of a Nevada BWI conviction depend on the circumstances of the case. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • Standard BWI. Generally, a BWI is a misdemeanor and carries up to $1,000 in fines and/or a maximum six months in jail.
  • BWI involving death or injuries. An offender who negligently causes death or "substantial bodily harm" to another while boating under the influence is guilty of a category B felony. Convicted boaters face two to 20 years in prison and $2,000 to $5,000 in fines.

So, while Nevada's DWI laws provide more severe penalties for repeat offenders, prior BWI convictions generally don't increase the possible penalties for a subsequent BWI conviction.

Nevada's "Homicide by Vessel" Law

A boater who causes the death of another person while operating a vessel under the influence and has at least three prior BWI convictions can be convicted of "homicide by vessel." Homicide by vessel is a category A felony and carries ten years to life in prison.

Talk to an Attorney

The consequences of a Nevada BWI are serious, and the facts of every case are different. If you've been arrested for boating under the influence, get in touch with an experienced DUI/BWI 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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