North Dakota’s Boating Under the Influence Laws

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

North Dakota law prohibits operating a motorboat, vessel, or similar device while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The term “vessel” means “any watercraft, other than a seaplane on the water, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on water”—so not just boats with motors or engines. (N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 20.1-01-02(54) (2016).) A person can be convicted of boating under the influence for operating a watercraft while:

  • under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two “to a degree which renders that person incapable of safely operating a motorboat or vessel,” or
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .1% or greater.

(N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 20.1-13-07(2) (2016).)

BUI Penalties

The consequences of a North Dakota BUI depend on the circumstances of the case. But generally, the consequences are:

  • Jail and fines. In North Dakota, a BUI is a class B misdemeanor, which carries up to 30 days in jail and/or a maximum of $1,500 in fines.
  • Operator’s privilege suspension. If a chemical test (typically, breath or blood) shows a boater had a BAC of .1% or more or prohibited blood concentration of drugs, the North Dakota Department of Fish and Game will suspend the boater’s operating privileges. The suspension is 91 days for a first offense. If the boater has a prior BUI conviction within the past five years, there’s a 364-day suspension. And if the boater has been twice convicted of boating under the influence in the past five years, the third BUI carries a two-year suspension.

(N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § § 20.1-13-01, 20.1-13.1-07, 12.1-32-01(6) (2016).)


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 North Dakota, 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.

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