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Drinking and boating in Pennsylvania

The summer boating season is in full swing, and the state of Pennsylvania offers a variety of lakes that are key spots for recreation and relaxation, including Lake Erie. But the enjoyment can abruptly come to an end if your boat gets pulled over or you find yourself in an accident.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, roughly half of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. Many people think of drinking and driving a boat as different than a car, only to find out that the laws are virtually the same.

What is a BUI?

Boating under the influence (BUI) is exactly how it sounds. Pennsylvania law prohibits operating or being in control of a watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Law enforcement can stop your boat at any time to enforce water safety regulations

Classifications of a BUI

In Pennsylvania, there are five classifications of a BUI:

  • Drug BUI: You operate a watercraft with any concentration of a controlled substance in your blood. This could be a combination of alcohol and drugs.
  • Alcohol-impairment: You operate a watercraft after drinking enough alcohol to be "rendered incapable" of safely operating the watercraft.
  • "Per se" BUI: You operate a watercraft with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08 percent.
  • "High-rate-of-alcohol" BUI: You operate a watercraft with a BAC of at least .1 percent.
  • "Highest-rate-of-alcohol" BUI: You operate a watercraft with a BAC of .16% or greater.

Penalties of a BUI

Across all 50 states, it is illegal to drink and operate a boat. Each state enforces their own unique penalties. However, they similarly include large fines, possible jail time and driver's license penalties.

The penalties of a Pennsylvania BUI conviction vary case by case. The classification of the offense, number of prior BUI convictions, and whether you were in an accident are a few possible circumstances that will affect the possible sentence.

If you or someone you know finds themselves in a boating accident or dealing with a BUI charge, seek legal counsel immediately. It's important to consult with an attorney that has extensive experience in criminal defense. Contact the Quinn Law Firm at 814-833-2222 to get the help you need.

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