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Boating Under The Influence, Can I Get Arrested For DUI?

In California, if you operate a motorized boat or any watercraft while under the influence in a lake, river, or the ocean, you can be arrested and charged with a crime.

The Harbors and Navigation Code provides the statutes for boating under the influence, or BUI. The language of the code is very close in the language in the California Vehicle Code for drunk driving, (see California Vehicle Code section 23152).
drinking and boating.jpgUnder the Harbors and Navigation Code section 655:

(b) No person shall operate any vessel or manipulate water skis, an aquaplane, or a similar device while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug.

(c) No person shall operate any recreational vessel or manipulate any water skis, aquaplane, or similar device if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more in his or her blood.

(d) No person shall operate any vessel other than a recreational vessel if the person has an alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or more in his or her blood.

The code does not bar the operator of the boat or the passengers from drinking or having open containers inside the vessel. However, it is illegal to operate a motorized vessel or serve as a crew member while under the influence or alcohol, a drug, or the combination of both, (see Harbors and Navigation Code section 655.4(a)).

A BUI is priorable, which means if you are charged with another DUI or BUI within ten years of the first one, you will be subject to the consequences of a second offense, which are more severe than the punishment for the first.


If you are charged with DUI or BUI in San Diego County and you are not sure what to do next, never just plead guilty. Contact The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman to discuss your rights. To set up a free, confidential consultation, use the “Contact Us” form on this page or call 619-260-1122 today.