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

Read about Pennsylvania BUI law and consequences of a conviction.

Pennsylvania law prohibits operating or being in actual physical control of a watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Pennsylvania has several classifications of boating under the influence (BUI):

  • Boating while impaired by alcohol (alcohol-impairment BUI). An alcohol-impairment-BUI involves boating after drinking enough alcohol to be “rendered incapable of safely operating or being in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft.”
  • Boating with a BAC of between .08% and .1% (“per se” BUI). A per se BUI involves boating with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08% but less than .1%.
  • Boating with a BAC of between .1% and .16% (“high-rate-of-alcohol” BUI). A high-rate-of-alcohol BUI involves boating with a BAC of at least .1% but less than .16%.
  • Boating with a BAC of .16% or more (“highest-rate-of-alcohol” BUI). A highest-rate-of-alcohol BUI involves boating with a BAC of .16% or greater.
  • Boating under the influence of drugs (drug BUI). A drug BUI involves boating with any concentration of a controlled substance in your blood or while under the influence of controlled substances or a combination of alcohol and controlled substances. A boater is “under the influence” if the substance or combination of substances ingested “impairs the individual’s ability to safely operate or be in actual physical control of the movement of the watercraft.”
The possible penalties for a BUI conviction depend on the classification.

    Penalties

    Here are the possible penalties you'll face if convicted of boating under the influence in Pennsylvania.

    Alcohol-Impairment BUIs

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

    • First offense. A first-offense alcohol-impairment BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor. For most convictions, there’s a maximum six-month jail sentence, a minimum six-month term of probation, and a $300 fine. However, where the first offense involves injuries or death to another or damage to another’s property, there’s also a minimum 48-hour jail sentence and an increased fine ranging from $500 to $5,000.
    • Second offense. A second-offense alcohol-impairment BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor. Most second convictions carry five days to six months in jail and $300 to $2,500 in fines. However, where the second offense involves injuries or death to another or damage to another’s property, there’s also a minimum 30-day jail sentence and an increased fine ranging from $750 to $5,000.
    • Third offense. Most third-offense alcohol-impairment BUIs are second-degree misdemeanors and carry between ten days and two years in jail and $500 to $5,000 in fines. However, where the third offense involves injuries or death to another or damage to another’s property, it will be a first-degree misdemeanor and carry between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 to $10,000 in fines.

      Per Se BUIs

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

      • First offense. A first-offense per se BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum six-month jail sentence, a minimum six-month term of probation, and a $300 fine.
      • Second offense. A second-offense per se BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries five days to six months in jail and $300 to $2,500 in fines.
      • Third offense. A third-offense per se BUI is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries between ten days and two years in jail and $500 to $5,000 in fines.

        High-Rate-of-Alcohol BUIs

        The consequences for a first, second, and third high-rate-of-alcohol BUI are:

        • First offense. A first-offense high-rate-of-alcohol BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries between 48 hours and six months in jail and from $500 to $5,000 in fines.
        • Second offense. A second-offense high-rate-of-alcohol BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries between 30 days and six months in jail and $750 to $5,000 in fines.
        • Third offense. A third-offense high-rate-of-alcohol BUI is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 and $10,000 in fines.

          Highest-Rate-of-Alcohol and Drug BUIs

          Pennsylvania imposes the same penalties for highest-rate-of-alcohol and drug BUIs. The consequences for a first, second, and third offense are:

          • First offense. A first-offense highest-rate-of-alcohol or drug BUI is a third-degree misdemeanor and carries between 72 hours and six months in jail and from $1,000 to $5,000 in fines.
          • Second offense. A second-offense highest-rate-of-alcohol or drug BUI is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between 90 days and five years in jail and $1,500 to $10,000 in fines.
          • Third offense. A third-offense highest-rate-of-alcohol or drug BUI is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries between one and five years in jail and $2,500 and $10,000 in fines.

            BUI Aggravated Assault and Homicide

            A BUI offender who causes serious bodily injury to another person can be charged with aggravated assault by watercraft while operating under the influence. The offense is a second-degree felony and carries up to ten years in prison and a maximum of $25,000 in fines. (30 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5502.3 (2016).)

            Where a boater causes the death of another person while operating a watercraft under the influence, the prosecution can charge the offender with BUI homicide, a second-degree felony. An offender convicted of BUI homicide generally faces between three and ten years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. However, the minimum prison sentence is increased if more than one victim died. (30 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5502.1 (2016).)

            Boater Safety Courses

            All boaters convicted of a BUI offense must complete a state-approved boating safety course.

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