Boating Under the Influence in MA

In MA, as in all states, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is illegal. When it comes to land vehicles, passengers are also prohibited from consuming alcohol while in the vehicle. But what about boats? Can boat passengers imbibe? The answer is yes. Passengers can drink alcohol on a boat, but the operator cannot. And as with cars and trucks, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher is above the legal limit.

Consequences of BUI

Although boat passengers can drink alcohol on the boat, they cannot become intoxicated. In fact, it is illegal for both the vessel owner and operator to allow anyone on board to become intoxicated while boating. If your boat is stopped by the Coast Guard or Harbor Patrol, you may face the following consequences if you are boating under the influence (BUI):


  • Coast Guard or Harbor Patrol may ask you to submit to a breath test and field sobriety test. You can refuse both, but if you refuse the breath test, you will likely face the consequences of refusal.
  • A refusal may result in an automatic 120-day driver’s license suspension. There are no boat licenses in MA.
  • A refusal may also result in a 120-day revocation of your boat registration.
  • If you are convicted of BUI, you may face jail time and fines in addition to the penalties above. BUI sentences are similar to OUI sentences.
  • A first offense BUI may result in up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of up to $1,000. If you have a prior criminal history or past BUI or OUI convictions, you may face more severe penalties.

As stated by the U.S. Coast Guard, “a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol concentration.” As such, the Commonwealth is tough on boating under the influence. A Boston BUI defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with BUI.

If convicted of BUI, the offense will go on your criminal record, you may face jail time and hefty fines, and you may be civilly liable for any resulting injuries or property damages. The best advice is to avoid drinking any alcohol if you are operating a boat in MA. But if you’ve made a mistake, a MA BUI defense attorney can help you protect your rights.

Serious Bodily Injury or Death

If your BUI offense caused the serious injury or death of another, you will likely face much stiffer penalties.

  • Serious bodily injury: Up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines of at least $3,000. If reckless or negligent operation was also a factor, the offender may face up to 10 years in jail and fines of up to $5,000.
  • Death: If negligent or reckless operation was a factor, the offender may face up to 15 years in jail and fines of up to $5,000.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Top BUI Defense Law Firm

If you have been charged with BUI or a related offense, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with crimes for more than 50 years. It is our goal to keep you out of jail and to keep your record clean. Harbor Patrol and the Coast Guard understand that summer boating is a fun, recreational activity; as such, there are no open container laws for boats. However, a drunk boat operator and excessively-intoxicated passengers can create dangerous situations. For these reasons, BUIs are treated in much the same way as OUI offenses in MA. If you are facing BUI charges, the help of an experienced BUI attorney is essential to a favorable outcome. Don’t go through this complex process alone. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.


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