What You Need to Know about a Boating DUI in Pennsylvania

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
January 27, 2023

What You Need to Know about a Boating DUI in PennsylvaniaExperienced boaters understand that driving a boat comes with a lot of responsibilities and knowledge. Not only are you in charge of properly navigating through the water, but also knowing how deep the water is and if there are any obstacles in your path. When you are intoxicated, your judgments and reactions are a lot slower than when you are sober. This makes it extremely dangerous to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol. 

When penalized for “Operating a Watercraft Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance,” you violate 30 Pa.C.S. 5502 and are charged with a serious misdemeanor. Unlike a motor vehicle DUI, a boating DUI results in the suspension of Pennsylvania boating privileges and not driving privileges. However, in Pennsylvania, driving a boat while intoxicated is still a serious offense. Depending on how much alcohol you have in your system, you may face major repercussions like expensive fines and sometimes incarceration. 

What Are the Penalties for Boating Under the Influence in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania DUI laws operate on a three-tier system, which means that the severity of your penalties depends on your blood alcohol content (BAC) and the presence of any prior boating DUIs on your record. 

Level 1: BAC of .08 to .10

For those with lower BAC levels, you are likely to have less severe penalties even if you have more than one prior offense. This is the lowest level of the tier and is referred to as “per se” DUI.

  • First Offense: A first offense is a third-degree misdemeanor, and you may face up to six months of probation or a jail sentence and a maximum fine of $300.
  • Second Offense: Also a third-degree misdemeanor, a second per se DUI offense can lead to a jail sentence of five days to six months and a fine that ranges from $300 to $2,500.
  • Third Offense: A person charged with a third offense boating DUI faces a felony charge that carries a possible sentence of up to 2 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. 

The penalties you may face upon a conviction vary significantly depending on your BAC, past criminal history, and other factors. 

Level 2: BAC of .10 to .16

When your BAC is even higher than the minimum needed to face a criminal charge, you are likely to experience harsher consequences upon a conviction. The time you may spend in jail or prison, and the fines you are required to pay, all increase. 

  • First Offense: A first offense is still recognized as a third-degree misdemeanor for a higher BAC level, and you may be sentenced to 48 hours to six months in jail and you may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Second Offense: A second offense high-rate-of-alcohol DUI is also a third-degree misdemeanor that can carry a $750 to $5,000 fine and between 30 days and six months in jail. 
  • Third Offense: If you have committed a third offense, you are charged with a felony, which may result in up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

These charges can put pressure on your life and cause you to have difficulties with your job, family, and freedoms. Having any kind of DUI on your record –– even if you are never convicted –– may present long-term challenges that could be alleviated by working with an experienced DUI attorney.

Level 3: BAC greater than .16

A blood alcohol content greater than .16 is the highest level in the DUI three-tier penalty system and carries the harshest penalties.  

  • First Offense: A first offense DUI with a BAC of 0.16% or higher is a third-degree misdemeanor and may lead to 72 hours to six months in jail, as well as up to $1,000 to $5,000 in fines. 
  • Second Offense: The second offense is a first-degree misdemeanor with fines of up to $10,000 and a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.
  • Third Offense: The third offense with the highest-rate-of-alcohol requires between one and five years in prison, fines of $2,500 and $10,000, and is a felony charge. 

Those who drive a boat while under the influence of alcohol can face severe penalties depending on the alcohol content in your blood. This is why the amount of alcohol in your system at the time of the conviction is essential to your case. 

Aggravated Assault and Homicide

When an impaired boat driver causes an accident that severely injures or causes death to another person, they can be charged with aggravated assault or a BUI homicide, which is a second-degree felony. The consequences of those actions may carry up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $25,000. 

While a boating DUI does not take away your right to drive a motor vehicle, the penalties you face are just as strict and can cause you issues with work, relationships, and future goals. If you are facing a boating DUI charge, contacting a motivated DUI boating attorney that can defend your rights and conduct a thorough investigation can help reduce the risk of extreme consequences. 

Trust Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford’s Experienced Pennsylvania Lawyers

We are all human and make mistakes. Sometimes those accidents can have more consequences than others, but that does not mean your rights are not valid. At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, our team has over 65 years of experience defending clients and representing them in legal conflicts. With a thorough investigation process and reliable communication, our team works to offer clients the best possible outcome for their cases. 

Call 215-822-7575 or complete our contact form for a free and confidential case review.

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
January 27, 2023
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.