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DUI on a Boat: Maryland BUI and BWI Laws Explained


As the gentle ripples of the Chesapeake Bay meet the shores of Maryland, a picturesque scene unfolds, inviting boating enthusiasts to explore the vast expanse of waterways. The thrill of navigating the open seas, however, comes with a responsibility that extends beyond the beauty of the maritime landscape – the obligation to ensure sobriety at the helm.

Boating under the influence (BUI) in Maryland is not just a legal concern. It’s a matter of maritime safety. In this article, we delve into the legal intricacies and consequential realities of BUI, unveiling the measures in place to safeguard both the tranquility of the waters and the lives aboard.

The Legal Limits

Like driving under the influence (DUI) on land, Maryland has established legal limits for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for those operating a vessel. The legal BAC limit for boaters in Maryland is 0.08%, mirroring the limit for drivers on the road. Boaters must be aware that impaired judgment and reflexes can significantly compromise safety on the water, making adherence to these limits paramount.

Enforcement of BUI Laws

Maryland’s law enforcement agencies diligently patrol its waterways to ensure compliance with BUI regulations. Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) actively monitor boating activities, equipped with the authority to conduct safety checks and sobriety tests on suspected impaired operators.

Consequences of BUI in Maryland

The consequences of boating under the influence in Maryland are severe and can have lasting repercussions on one’s life. Here’s a closer look at the potential penalties for BUI offenders:

  • Criminal Penalties — Boating under the influence is a criminal offense in Maryland (Maryland NR §8-738). Offenders may face fines, imprisonment, or both, depending on the severity of the violation. A first-time BUI conviction could lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.
  • License Suspension — Just as DUI offenders on land face license suspension, boaters convicted of BUI in Maryland may have their boating privileges suspended. This can significantly impact one’s ability to enjoy the water legally.
  • Ignition Interlock Device — In some instances, the court may order an ignition interlock device installed on the offender’s vessel, especially for repeat offenders. This device requires the boater to pass a breathalyzer test before starting the engine.
  • Probation — Offenders may be placed on probation as part of their sentence, requiring regular check-ins with a probation officer and adherence to specific conditions.
  • Education Programs — Maryland may mandate completing a boating safety course or alcohol education program as part of the penalty for a BUI conviction. These programs aim to raise awareness about the dangers of operating a vessel under the influence.
  • Increased Penalties for Aggravating Factors — If aggravating factors are present, such as causing an accident or having a minor on board while under the influence, the penalties for BUI may be heightened.
  • Impact on Driver’s License — In addition to boating-related consequences, a BUI conviction may have collateral effects on an individual’s driver’s license. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration may take action against the offender’s driver’s license.

Preventing BUI Incidents

Understanding the potential consequences of boating under the influence is crucial, but preventing such incidents is equally important. Boaters can take some proactive measures to ensure safety on Maryland’s waterways.

  • Designate a Sober Skipper — Before embarking on a boating trip, designate a sober skipper who will refrain from alcohol consumption during the outing. Having a responsible operator ensures the safety of all passengers.
  • Know the Limits — Understand and respect the legal limits for alcohol consumption. It’s essential to be aware that alcohol’s effects can intensify on the water due to sun exposure and motion.
  • Educate Passengers — Boaters should educate their passengers about the dangers of boating under the influence and encourage responsible behavior on board.
  • Invest in Safety Equipment — Ensure the presence of safety equipment on the vessel, including life jackets and first aid kits. In an emergency, having the necessary equipment can make a significant difference.

Jeremy Widder Law, Experienced Legal Representation for Your BUI Case

Boating under the influence poses a serious threat to the safety of Maryland’s waterways. The legal consequences and potential risks associated with BUI should serve as a stark reminder for boaters to prioritize safety and responsible behavior on the water.

By adhering to the laws, understanding the potential penalties, and taking proactive measures to prevent BUI incidents, boaters can contribute to a safer and more enjoyable aquatic environment.

Jeremy Widder Law delivers top-notch legal services backed by years of experience. With the strict penalties you face when being charged with a BUI, we are ready to dedicate time, resources, and energy to support you from beginning to end. We will listen to your story and advocate for you.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


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