Boating Under the Influence in Tennessee

With summer just around the corner, many Tennesseans may be looking forward to boating outings on the state’s lakes and rivers. This is also the season when Tennessee Wildlife Resource Officers may patrol for boaters under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Many people may not be aware of the fact that just as you can receive a DUI for driving under the influence, you can also face charges for boating under the influence or BUI.

The laws for a BUI are similar to DUI laws. Those operating vessels on public waters in Tennessee are deemed to have implicitly consented to tests to determine their blood alcohol content (BAC). If the operator of a boat refuses to allow a blood or breath test, he or she may be found in violation of Tennessee’s implied consent law. Officers, however, must have reasonable grounds to stop the operator, and probable cause to believe he or she has been drinking or using drugs. The implied consent violation is a separate offense from BUI, and may result in a six month suspension of vessel operating privileges.

It is illegal for a vessel operator to be under the influence of drugs, or have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater while on public waterways. It is important to note that the vessel does not have to be motorized, for instance a sail boat operator may also be charged with boating under the influence.

Penalties for BUI include fines up to $2,500 on the first or second offense, and up to $5,000 on the third offense. Those convicted of BUI may also face up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, and suspension of operating privileges for up to ten years. The potentially steep penalties resulting from a BUI charge make a strong legal defense important.

Source: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, “Boating Under The Influence.”

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