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Boating Under the Influence Laws in California

The Dangers and Liability Risks of Intoxicated Boating

Between the ocean view and weather, California is a great state to enjoy a relaxing day out on the water. Los Angeles has a prominent nightlife and a range of boats for charter if you’re interested in taking a trip offshore. But like all recreational activities, boating comes with potential risks and dangers.

If you’ve been seriously injured in a boating accident recently, it is always best to consult with a watercraft accident attorney. On average BUI accidents cause at least five fatalities and 18 life-threatening injuries annually in California. These cases are seldom straightforward. It takes legal expertise and a trained eye to determine who is liable for your damages.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

Despite popular belief it is not illegal to have a drink or two on registered watercraft if you’re a passenger. But California’s Harbors & Navigation Code 655 considers it a crime for anyone operating a boat, jet ski, or vessel with a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher.

Is A BUI The Same as A DUI?

Alcohol can lower anyone’s ability to think clearly and prohibits negligent motorists and boaters from exercising a standard of care to everyone in the vicinity. Their actions put everyone at risk of a deadly accident or injury. BUIs are similar to DUIs as they both require operating under the influence of intoxicants.

There is one significant difference – you don’t need a driver’s license for boating like you would for a truck, car, and motorcycle. But it’s still possible to lose driving privileges although having a license is not required to pilot a boat. A personal injury attorney would advise boaters 35 years of age or younger to apply for a Boater Card to limit the risk of liability. It ensures you receive complete state-approved education.

Examples of BUI Cases That Could Result in A Charge

  • A woman drinks several glasses of wine and smokes marijuana before operating her watercraft. A few minutes later, she falls asleep and loses control causing an accident to ensue.
  • A man has a few beers with friends. After a short while his BAC rises above 0.09%. He decides it’s safe to take his turn water skiing and endangers other boaters instead.
  • Passengers boarded a small commercial yacht for a small outing. The captain drank a few minutes before operating the boat. His BAC was approximately 0.05% posing a risk to everyone onboard.

What Are the Consequences for Boating Under the Influence?

Boating under the influence is a very serious offense. California BUI penalties depend on the law you’ve violated and whether this was your first case. If classified as a misdemeanor, the defendant could face six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Felony penalties on the other hand, could result in jail time for 16 months, two years, or three years.

Legal Process of Handling Boat Accident Claims

From the moment you retain our legal services at Grey Law, we will gather all the documentation related to your claim. Medical records and insurance policy information are vital. It helps us establish how much your case is worth and helps the court understand the severity of the boat crash that caused your pain and suffering.

Following a free consultation, we will investigate the boating accident to piece together other relevant information that you might have missed. Our attorneys will use police reports, witness statements, photographic evidence, and video footage to demonstrate how the defendant is at fault. These incidents often involve more than one person, which can be helpful when we pursue compensation for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Disfigurement
  • Long-term care
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property/boat damage

Reaching a fair and full settlement is never easy while you’re recovering from a boating accident. Our attorneys are prepared to aggressively fight for your rights in court if we don’t come to a fair agreement with insurance companies.

About Grey Law

“When it comes to getting you more, I won’t settle for less.” – David Grey

When you or a loved one are injured due to negligence, carelessness, or wrongful acts of another person, David Grey is ready to help. Seeking compensation or negotiating with insurance companies can be stressful, especially while recovering. Let us do that for you.

We have 35+ years of experience and secured millions for our clients. From the time you retain our firm, we build your case. For a free case evaluation and consultation, reach out to us at (323) 857-9500 or email

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