Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is Serious Business in Tennessee

Many residents of Tennessee love their boats and enjoy water sports as a recreational hobby. For some, there’s nothing like taking the boat out on a warm summer’s day and soaking up the sunshine with close friends and family.

Unfortunately, each year many people are charged with boating under the influence (BUI) because they drank alcohol while operating their boat or watercraft.

In Tennessee, it’s a criminal offense to manage any boat or watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The BAC limit in Tennessee for driving a boat is .08 percent. In many cases, the same field sobriety and breathalyzer assessments are utilized for boating under the influence as they are for driving under the influence.

Whether you’ve been charged with a BUI or would like to know more about Tennessee laws, keep reading to learn more.

What Are the BUI Boating Laws in Tennessee?

Operating a mechanically powered boat while under the influence of alcohol is a Class A crime in Tennessee.

Most of the rules regarding alcohol use that apply to the water are the same as those that pertain to drivers of motor vehicles. Those who have a blood alcohol content of .08 or more are charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI).

When you operate a boat, you offer implied consent to blood alcohol testing, in the same way the driver of a car or truck does. The penalties upon conviction for Boating Under the Influence are the same for Drinking Under the Influence.

During certain celebratory holiday periods such as New Year’s Eve or Christmas, officers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) increase their enforcement efforts, just as state and local police do on land. During these periods, people are more likely to let loose and make mistakes with boating and drinking under the influence.

What Are the BUI Penalties in Tennessee?

The BUI penalties in Tennessee are as follows:

Boating Under the Influence, first offense:

  • Fee: $250.00 minimum, $2,500.00 maximum
  • Prison: Up to 11 months and 29 days
  • Boating License suspension for up to one year

Boating Under the Influence, second offense:

  • Fee: $500.00 minimum, $2,500.00 maximum
  • Prison: Up to 11 Months and 29 days
  • Boating License suspension for two years

Boating Under the Influence, third offense or more:

  • Fee: $1,000.00 minimum, $5,000.00 maximum
  • Prison: Minimum of 30 days, Maximum up to 11 months and 29 days
  • Boating License suspension for three years minimum, ten years maximum

What Do Field Sobriety Tests Involve?

Some of the traditional field sobriety tests used on land cannot work on the water. These include the walk-and-turn or the one-leg stand.

Because of this, TWRA officers may request boat operators to perform other types of field sobriety tests. These include reciting the alphabet or counting backward.

Whether you’re out on the water or land, we suggest politely refusing to perform field sobriety tests. However, refusing to consent to a breath, blood, or urine test can result in an automatic one year suspension of your driving and/or boating license.  

Can You Drink Alcohol on a Boat If It’s Anchored?

Anchored and moored boats are exempt from Boating Under the Influence. This is the most significant difference between BUI and DUI laws in Tennessee.

The driver of a car on land can be charged for DUI even if the vehicle is stable and the engine is off. But when boating in Tennessee, if the anchor is dropped or the boat is moored, an operator isn’t subject to Tennessee’s BUI laws.

If you want to enjoy a drink while on the water, make sure you do it when the boat is anchored or moored. Then, let someone who is not drinking operate the vessel back to the ramp or dock.

Can You Get a BUI on a Paddle Boat?

Rowboats and paddle-powered boats are exempt from Tennessee’s Boating Under the Influence laws. The regulations only apply to boaters of vessels that must be licensed.

That includes all boats that are mechanically powered, such as trolling motors and sailboats.

Oared boats and paddle-powered vessels are excluded, along with windsurfing boards. When it comes to pedal boats, it’s probably hard to be so reckless as to draw the attention of law enforcement officials. However, operators of pedal boats could still be charged with BUI if they’re discovered using alcohol or drugs.

Injuries From Someone Operating a Boat Under the Influence 

Just as people often get injured at the hands of drunk drivers, people are also often injured from accidents caused by drunk boaters. Boats can collide with other boats, run over smaller water vehicles such as jet skis, and can run into hidden obstacles in lakes or waterways. All of these scenarios could lead to injuries similar to those encountered by people involved in an auto wreck.  

Reasonover Law is the best firm to protect you and your family from personal injuries, including injuries caused by drunk and negligent boaters.

If you’ve been injured as a result of an accident that involved a negligent boater, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.